World Series History!

If you were watching World Series baseball on October 26, 2018, you were fortunate enough to witness history. Even if you aren’t a Los Angeles Dodger (though I am not sure exactly what that is) or a Boston Red Sock (also not sure if the singular of Sox is Sock), witnessing history should be on most everybody’s bucket list.

Like most earth-shattering events, this game had its fair share of historical accomplishments. It was the longest post season game in history. From the first pitch to final breathtaking homerun in the 18th inning, game 3 of the best of 7 series lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes. Seriously! 7 hours and 20 minutes (It’s more dramatic if I repeat it – I’m not really repeating it, I’m retyping it for dramatic reasons – O well – you understand what I mean)! Amazingly, this game was longer than the entire 1939 World Series!

While the length of the game was impressive, some of the stats were even more impressive. Combined, the teams used 46 players and 18 pitchers, both World Series records. There were 161 plate appearances. And, maybe the most astonishing record was the 561 pitches. Yes! 561 pitches.

If you’re a baseball fan, but especially if you’re not – you know how long and painful and arduous 561 pitches can take. This game, although I’m sure was thrilling for the athletes who had to wait hours for any semblance of action, must have been the most painful spectacle in sports all year. 7 hours and 20 minutes of painful anticipation for the riveting 3-2 win.

While a few of you patiently anticipated the storybook walk off home run that thankfully ended the game, the rest of you tried unsuccessfully to stay awake or did your online banking or scheduled that colonoscopy you’ve been delaying.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a diehard baseball fan. I still remember Joe Carter bounding around the bases after his walk-off home run, delivering a second World Series ring to my hometown – so please don’t call me a hater. But seriously – 7 hours and 20 minutes for a 3-2 score.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but it’s clear to me that Baseball’s commissioner may want to consider some updates to make the game more exciting. Baseball can definitely learn from other sports: football increased scoring by not allowing geriatric quarterbacks to be hit, hockey has thrown in Mayweather style boxing matches to spice things up, basketball outlawed defense and soccer (o.k. not a good example, but you get my point).

On the other hand, there aren’t many things more American than Baseball. Being distracted for 7 hours and 20 minutes from all the drama that is happening in our country is probably not that bad of a thing. If the worse thing we can do is argue about being a Dodger or a Red Sock, that probably is far better than arguing about being a Republican or Democrat!

On that note – I’m going to go watch paint dry.

Slightly different!

Doc mu

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Black Friday Challenge

peanuts-thanksgivingDespite what CNN or Fox News will tell you, America is and has always been a great place.  And this is even more evident during the Thanksgiving season.  I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving may be one of the greatest days of the year.  Of course, it is!  Thanksgiving is the day we dedicate to giving thanks.  Doesn’t really matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, you still have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is not only about being thankful.  Thanksgiving is also about giving.  You might think otherwise, but Americans are still “great” at giving.  The data shows that Americans are very good at giving.

In 2014, Americans gave a record breaking 358 billion dollars.  And this only accounts for charitable giving that is documented.  Even adjusting for inflation, 2014 was the most charitable year since 2007.  Simple math, in 2014 Americans gave a billion dollars a day.  If you didn’t feel good about the holidays already, that ought to warm your soul – or should it?

Even though Americans should be preoccupied with thanking and giving, somehow the holiday has been perverted.  Thanksgiving is now known for thanking and giving and… shopping?  Huh?  Did the name change?  Thanksgivingshopping seems a little long!  If you were impressed with how charitable Americans are, you should be equally impressed with our ability to spend.

In 2015, American’s spent 10.4 Billion dollars on the day after Thanksgiving – a day that has unfortunately been dubbed Black Friday.  Think that’s surprising?  That is down from 11.6 Billion in 2014.  And none of us would be surprised if that number was even higher in 2016.

What does all of this mean?  All dollars being equal, Americans are 10 times more likely to spend than give.  That puts Thanksgiving, or whatever the new name should be, in a different perspective.  Many of us will be thankful, and many of us will give, and many more of us will tackle three people to get the new 60-inch TV.

black-fridayOur culture is most evident on a day dedicated to thankfulness and giving.  Unfortunately, it has become the opposite – a day dedicated to getting.  I know, I know, you are shopping to “give” to other people.  If that makes you feel better?

We have seen several “challenges” break the internet.  Well let’s start a new one this holiday.  Let’s start the Black Friday Challenge.  This Black Friday, I challenge you to not spend a dime.  Stay at home with your family, give and be thankful.  I dare you to challenge as many as you can.  Let’s show everybody how great America really is.

Slightly different,

Doc mu

 

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March Mathematical Madness – Picking Winners Is Easy?

Here we are, in the midst of so-called March Madness.  For many avid sports fans, March Madness is both tremendous and frustrating.  Like the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball tournament provides an opportunity for those who know nothing about basketball to feel like they know something about basketball.

The game of basketball is one of the most cerebral games there is.  Strategy can change in a split second.  And when there are 63 games, over a three-week span, determining the number of potential strategic outcomes requires analytical calculus.  That entropy, coupled with the emotional fanaticism of the typical basketball fan, is why we use the term “madness”.

For-Article-on-AnalyticsIt isn’t just about the fans.  Basketball players, coaches and analysts also look forward to this time of year.  March Madness provides the opportunity to study the game of basketball.  Several years ago, this kind of basketball analysis took the basketball world by storm.  Basketball analytics, so creatively called, uses predictive analytic data to develop strategic decision-making.  Fans are unaware of it, players live with it and coaches absolutely love it.

The proliferation of the three-point shot is a consequence of this kind of analysis.  Even though the greatest players in history dominated the game from inside the three-point arc, coaches continue to force their kids into the “lay-up, three-point” game.  By statistically predicting that scoring is more efficient with lay-ups and set shot three-pointers, basketball analytics have single-handedly regaled the mid-range shot to the basketball archives.

It isn’t the data analyst’s fault.  Data is neither good nor bad.  But, those who analyze data can sometimes misinterpret results or ascribe inappropriate causes to unrelated outcomes.  Because all championship teams have players who wear socks, some analysts make inappropriately construe that socks are essential for winning a championship.  Or are they?  Confusing right?!  What’s more, even though analytics have been used to remove the two-point shot (sorry Michael and Kobe), other more convincing data has been inadvertently or conveniently ignored.

Any rational high-level high school or college basketball coach spends most of their time evaluating future prospects for skill, talent, athleticism and height.  When they recruit, many of those coaches will emphatically tell you that height is one of the most important variables.  In some studies, a college basketball recruit above 6’4” has a two or even three times higher chance of being recruited to a division 1 college basketball program.

After all, taller is better.  Well, let’s apply the infamous basketball analytics.  Let’s look at the top scorers, from the 2015-2016 NCAA regular season.

NCAA Division I Basketball Scoring Leaders

 
Height Points Per Game
5’11” 27.1
6’4” 25.0
6’2” 24.7
5’9” 24.2
5’11” 23.6
6’2” 23.5
6’0” 23.5
6’0” 23.1

tallest-basket-ball-player-ever-620x399This doesn’t make much sense?!  I knew a high-school coach that would bound around the gym asking each elementary school basketball player, “how tall are your parents?”  Most basketball coaches are preoccupied with height.  But if they used analytics, maybe they would consider something slightly different.

This data is not only confusing; it is downright confounding.  Only two players on this list are above 6’4”.  So it would appear, based on basketball analytics, most coaches have it all backwards.  They should really be asking, “how short are your parents?”

Well maybe not.  There is more to basketball than scoring.  And it stands to reason that taller players can provide advantages beyond scoring.  Defense and rebounding are probably much easier with the addition of a few inches.  And this data may not consider all of the variables.  What it does seems to show – is that if a coach is looking for a scorer, they should probably select someone under the magical 6’4”.

Basketball coaches aren’t the only ones to make this kind of folly.  Our society is far from a meritocracy.  We predict success based on assumptions, without fully looking at all the data.  We use income, looks, size, intelligence, family history, neighborhoods and schooling, in the same way basketball coaches use height.  And surprisingly, we are astounded when a 12 seed beats a 5 seed.  If we spent a little more time paying attention, the 12th seed wouldn’t be a 12 seed at all.  Maybe if we look at all the data, we would pick winners a little differently.

By the way….  Steph Curry, the reigning NBA MVP is 6’3”.  Good ol’ analytics.

 

Slight different,

doc mu

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Lead Your Team in Assists

warriorsEven if you aren’t a fan of professional basketball, you have to marvel at what the Golden State Warriors are doing right now.  Last count, they have won 55 games.  Winning 55 games isn’t all that impressive, until you realize that they have only played 60.  Yes!  They have only lost five games!  This is impressive, but not totally shocking.  The Warriors have the two best three-point shooters in the league.  And their coach, Steve Kerr, was one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history.

At first glance, their winning ways lead to obvious conclusions.  It really isn’t that complicated.  Arguably, they have one of the best scorers in history.  They have one of the top defenses in the league.  And, they had three players voted to the 2016 NBA All-Star game in Toronto.  Individually, not many teams measure up.

It’s simple math.  To win, all you need to do is score more points than the other team.  If you have better players and better shooters, that should be fairly easy.  The Golden State Warriors average five more points per game than the next best offense.  And the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, is leading the league in scoring.  Great team, great talent, great coach, and great scorers.

The NBA is known as the greatest one-on-one league on the planet.  Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and many of the best NBA players in history are tremendous one-on-one players.  When you have the greatest player in history on your team, what do you do?  You give him the ball, stand back and watch.  But, that isn’t how the Warriors win.

Nov 9, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) makes a behind a back pass to Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 107-95. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 9, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) makes a behind a back pass to Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12)

The Golden State Warriors lead the league in several categories, but what is most impressive about this team is that they lead the league in assists.  For those who aren’t basketball enthusiasts, an assist occurs when a player passes to another and that player immediately scores.  In simple terms, an assist is the work that a player does to set up another player to score.

Wait!  Hold up!  Is that right?  The NBA is a league that thrives on individual achievement and accolade.  Most NBA contracts have incentives based on individual performance.  The Warriors are so great, because they have a culture focused on making each other better.  Many of the players on that team have sacrificed their individual careers to play as a team.

Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, this is a lesson that has broad ranging applications.  Classrooms, offices and society are similar to the NBA.  Students, executives and most of us are focused on our individual accolades.  We want the best grades.  We want the most power and control.  We want the most money.

But, how often do we lead the league in assists?  How often do we do the work necessary to set up another person to score?  How often do we take the shot, instead of making that extra pass?  Golden State will likely win a second championship this year, because of their ability to make each other better.  Are you willing to do that?  Are you willing to make your team better?

If you want your team to win like the Warriors, focus on making the extra pass.  Focus on doing the work necessary to set up your teammate to score.  Focus on leading the league in assists.  At the end of the day, you have a choice.  Do you want to do what’s best for you or what’s best for the team?

Go Warriors!

Slightly different,

doc mu

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A Kodak Moment Eh?

On March 3, 1875, the first organized game of indoor hockey was played at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink.  The game featured two nine player teams and was played with a flat circular piece of wood.  As you may have already concluded, everybody in that game was Canadian.

stanley cup

 

Any proud Canadian won’t hesitate to tell you that hockey is the lifeblood of Canada.  Modern day hockey was created by Canadians, for Canadians and at least the first game was played by only Canadians.  From that moment, hockey permeated the cultural fabric of Canada.  In the Canadian dictionary, Hockey and Canada are surely found on the same page.

This phenomenon isn’t new.  A national culture consumed by a national sport isn’t rare, if anything, it’s fairly commonplace.  Hockey in Canada isn’t much different than football in England, baseball in America, or track and field in Jamaica.  Bryce Harper, Usain Bolt and David Beckham grew up in cultures where getting to ten-thousand hours wasn’t only encouraged, it was mandatory.

Being born in England doesn’t necessarily make you a soccer superstar, but it does create an environment and a culture conducive to becoming one.  And so – it stands to reason that Canadians should dominate in hockey.  For the most part, they have.  Currently, Canadians make up fifty percent of the National Hockey league.  But, here is where it starts to get interesting.

While Canadians make up a majority of hockey players in the NHL, only twenty-five percent of the teams are Canadian.  Actually, the majority NHL teams are American.  In fact, most of the NHL ownership is American.  In a nation where Super Bowl Sundays are national holidays, Americans have slowly made inroads into a sport that doesn’t even come close to permeating the very fabric of the culture.

As expected, the majority of Stanley Cup winners, the award given each year to the NHL championship team, have been from Canada.  The Montreal Canadians, aptly named, have won a whopping twenty-three Stanley Cups.  The Toronto Maple Leafs, whose emblem is the national symbol of Canada, have won thirteen.  No other team in the NHL even comes close.  Unfortunately, that’s ancient history.  Surprisingly, a Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993.

In 1976, Kodak accounted for 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in America.  Kodak, like Canada’s early dominance in Hockey, remained unmatched in the industry.  Kodak was the Google of its day.  Cleary ahead of its time, Kodak invented the digital Camera in 1975.  In 1996, Kodak recorded revenues of sixteen billion and generated a profit of three million.  Through their dominance and innovation, Kodak became the standard bearer for the film and camera industries.

rusted-kodak_0_0If you are reading this blog on your smartphone or iPad, that device likely contains camera technology that was not created by Kodak.  The digital camera has become as ubiquitous as air.  In 2012, the originator of the digital camera posted a loss of over two hundred million dollars in one quarter.  It would appear that Kodak and Canada have the same problem.

Being the first isn’t enough.  Both Kodak and Canada created something unique.  They created something that changed the world.  By being the first, they became the standard bearers in their respective disciplines.  They were the experts. So – what happened?

Both Kodak and Canada underestimated the market.  They underestimated the ability of their competitors to get to ten thousand hours.  Being Canadian doesn’t make you excel at hockey.  Developing strong youth leagues and unrivalled training make hockey players professional hockey players.  That can happen in Canada, America, Finland or even Jamaica.  Kodak had the same challenge.  Ironically, they didn’t adapt to the changes in the market created by their own innovation.

To truly achieve and create long lasting success, both companies and individuals have to change.  They have to adapt and learn to constantly improve.  Being the first or being the best won’t create long lasting success.  Without challenging yourself or your company to adapt, you are one digital camera away from irrelevance.

Kodak’s longtime rival, Fujifilm, faced the same volatile environment.  Fujifilm enjoyed a similar monopoly in Japan.  Both Kodak and Fujifilm saw their traditional business rendered obsolete.  Unlike Kodak, Fujifilm adapted.  Fujifilm developed a coordinated approach.  They changed their strategy.  Although they tried to squeeze as much money out of the film business as possible, they prepared to switch to digital and developed new business lines.  Instead of perfecting new business lines, they would launch them and fix them along the way.  Eventually, Kodak tried to make similar changes, but it was too little too late.

The lesson is obvious, but it’s worth reiterating.  Often, we wait until it’s too late to adapt to the market.  We let our success blind us from the failures that are searching for us in the future.  Even if success is woven into the very fabric of our culture, sometimes that fabric may need to change.  Advantages will become disadvantages.  Disadvantages will become opportunities.  The ability to adapt is far more important than revenue, profits, lineage or training.  Don’t believe me.  Ask Kodak eh?

Slightly Different!

doc mu


 

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Christmas Spirits….

Fortunately, we have one more weekend before Christmas. One more weekend before we huddle around the Christmas tree waiting to see our family’s responses to our gifts.  For many of us Christmas is about buying the right gift for the right person.  Unfortunately, for many others Christmas is about receiving the right gift from the right person.

“Santa knows if you’re naughty!” You threaten, as your bank account drains like a California reservoir.  Most kids shudder at the thought of not getting what they expect.  Even if the “carrot” transiently improves their bratty behavior, the audacity of their expectation dilutes the so-called Christmas spirit.

But, it isn’t just the kids. Unfortunately, adults aren’t much better.  That same Christmas spirit makes Black Friday more fun to watch than Rhonda Rousey’s knock out.  Don’t you dare take my parking spot!  It seems that what the season should be all about isn’t what the season is all about at all.

MarcoOn December 10, 2015, three heroes lost the opportunity to experience what Christmas should be about. They lost their lives in the line of duty, doing what they do best.  Their careers were filled with true Christmas spirit.  Night after night and day after day, they risked their lives flying to help those in need.  Every time they delivered a patient safely to a trauma center or to a cardiac cath lab, they were giving the right gift to the right person.

This year, their families will experience Christmas differently from the rest of us. They won’t necessarily be preoccupied with sales and parking spots.  They won’t be rushing to get hover boards and Kendamas.  They will simply be grateful for the time they have with their loved ones.

Marco Lopez, Thomas Hampl and Kyle Juarez will truly be missed this Christmas. Their selflessness should remind us of why Christmas is so important.  No gift can replace the moments we have with those we love.  What we give will be remembered far longer than what receive.

I remember working with Marco. No matter what he was going through, he would always smile.  That was his gift to me.  That was the right gift to the right person at the right time.  I just wish that he didn’t have to go away for me to realize that.

Make this Christmas special!  Those small gifts may mean more than you think….

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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The Great Ameritocracy?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably have heard of Stephen Curry.  He’s the reigning NBA MVP, and led his Golden State Warriors to the best record in the NBA.  Unless something cataclysmic happens, it’s likely that he’ll win an NBA championship.  Steph Curry is really, really, really good.

stephSteph Curry’s performance is intriguing in a very endearing way.  He isn’t very tall, by basketball standards.  He isn’t very fast.  He doesn’t dunk the basketball from the free-throw line.  But Steph is very good at the most important thing, putting the ball in the basket.

Stephen Curry’s season has been one of absolute dominance.  It was a year for the record books.  Don’t believe me?  Let the evidence speak for itself.   He was 6th in scoring average, 6th in assists per game, 2nd in steals, 4th in 3 point percentage and 1st in free throw percentage.  He is the leading scorer among guards, although everybody thinks they’re a guard nowadays.

Stephen Curry has had a hall of fame season.  Rightfully so, Stephen Curry was named the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player.  But Steph Curry isn’t dominant in every NBA category, and there is one category that should cause us some serious pause.  Stephen Curry isn’t even in the top 50 in one major category.

I can remember falling in love with the American culture, as a young Canadian high school student.  America was, and I still think it is, the land of opportunity.  Your status or caste or family or history doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.  America, at least as I saw it, was the ultimate meritocracy.

A meritocracy, in its simplest definition, translates to one simple concept.  You get what you deserve, based on your performance.  In a theoretical meritocracy, what you do is much more important than who you are.  This is the America we preach.  This is the America we teach.  And American sports are probably the most iconic example of the meritocratic world we envision.  At least that is what we hoped?

Stephen Curry, arguable the most dominant player in the NBA this year, is ranked 51st in salary.  According to his NBA salary, he’s the 51st best player in the league.  His income or “merit” doesn’t even get him in the NBA’s top 50.  It’s this statistic that should force you to pause.

Let’s keep it real.  Sports aren’t that important.  Although sports generate billions of dollars each year, sports aren’t life and death.  Stephen Curry isn’t a Roman gladiator and he won’t be sacrificed to the lions for underperformance.  That said.  Sports are a microcosm of society.  If we get the meritocracy concept wrong in the NBA, we’re probably getting it wrong elsewhere in our society.  We’re probably getting it wrong when the risks are far greater.

If we really were the meritocracy we claim to be, Stephen Curry should be the highest paid player this year.  Contracts would be based simply on merit.  They would be based on what players do and not who they are.  And if we really believe in this meritocracy, we should extend it to our society.  No one should get a free pass.

Whether it’s youth sports or company executives, no one should receive special dispensation.  Merit or playing time or money or promotions should be based on performance.  It shouldn’t matter who your dad is, how tall your mom is, what you did in third grade, who your mentor is, who you know, how much money your family has, where you’re from or how “connected” you are.  Merit should be awarded based solely on your performance.

Congratulations to Stephen Curry on proving everyone wrong.  Hopefully, he’ll eventually get the “merit” that he deserves.  And hopefully, America will continue to maintain the meritocracy that we all fell in love with.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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“Hold backs” – 13 in the 6th grade?

malcolm-gladwellIn 2011, Malcolm Gladwell changed the way we look at success.  His book “Outliers” convinced us that success doesn’t happen by accident.  His examination of hockey players and computer programmers and musicians helped us to understand that mastery is necessary for success.  This idea, that it takes 10000 hours to become a master in a given discipline, wasn’t necessarily new.  However, Malcolm popularized the concept.  And so it began.  Musicians and teachers and athletes all began to change the way they do things.  The theory is alluring, because it infers that the difference between you and Bill Gates is only 10000 hours.

In his book, Malcolm begins his convincing with a story about Canadian hockey players.  In Canada, youth hockey players who have birthdays near the registration cutoff date end up being bigger and stronger than those with birthdays later in the year.  Bigger and stronger and faster players easily make the elite teams.  Those who made the elite teams get better training, coaching and completion.  Players who have had better training, coaching and competition ultimately get to 10000 hours first.

Unfortunately, most success hungry readers missed the point.  Malcolm Gladwell, if you read more than the cliff notes, actually was advocating for multiple hockey leagues that had multiple cutoff dates.  If his model was used, we would generate many more master hockey players than we produce now.  But this isn’t what teachers, coaches, educators and (most of all) parents heard.

What parents heard about the 10000 hour rule, mostly from their friends of friends who actually spent the time reading the book, was that older kids do better.  They heard that older kids are more successful.  And because they had no control over school cutoff dates, they did what they thought was prudent.  They held their kids back.

little boy asking big man to play basketball“Holdbacks”, as they are so ingeniously called, are children who start school later than they should or who are held back at a certain grade.  The majority of these kids haven’t had academic or athletic difficulty.  They are simply held back to give them the perceived Malcolm Gladwell advantage.

Parents, using their competitive wisdom, are hoping to gain athletic and academic advantages.  And why not?  If you’re 13 and competing against 11 year olds, how can you possibly lose?  Unfortunately, you can.

Holding a child back does give that child some early advantages, but that advantage is mostly to satisfy the parents.  Most studies confirm that by 8th grade any competitive advantage from holding kids back has faded.  And even if the advantage still existed past 8th grade, parents still misinterpret the concept.

Getting to 10000 hours in anything doesn’t require an advantage, it requires 10000 hours of hard work.  10000 hours of hard work requires 3 hours of practice every day for approximately 10 years.  Kids, who have that early competitive advantage, would rarely spend 3 hours a day practicing for 10 years.

I know several people who have held their children back for this reason.  Most of them are straight A students and many of them dominate their youth athletics.  However, by the time they get to high school and the advantage has diminished, they rarely continue their dominance.  Why?

Practicing 3 hours a day for 10 years is difficult.  And it’s nearly impossible for individuals who are already at the top.  Think of it like this.  Have you ever received a bad grade on a test?  What did you do immediately after getting that “future coal-miner” grade?  After finding out you couldn’t drop the class and fuming because you missed the deadline, you studied.

Would you have had the same reaction if you received an “A?”  Of course not!  That “A” means you don’t have to open that book again, until the day before the next exam.  How many teams practice after winning a championship?  In other words, those who get early “A’s” probably don’t and won’t study for 3 hours a day for 10 years.  Parents, who believe their children are athletic superstars, probably assume they don’t have to practice for 3 hours a day for 10 years.

Many of the students in my son’s 6th grade class will turn 13 before he even turns 12.  They cruise home after school comforted by the foresight of their parents.  While they spend time at Disney Land basking in the glow of their own radiance, he’ll be in the midst of practicing and studying 3 hours every day on his way to 10000 hours.

I’m so glad we didn’t hold him back by holding him back.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Fearguson!

ferOf course! You know it wouldn’t take me long to give my two cents on the biggest topic in the last month, besides Bill Cosby.  Fortunately, having my own blog allows me to spew whatever I want, without being showered with hecklers from either side.  Either side?  Isn’t that ironic.  The Civil Rights Movement was 50 years ago and we are still talking about sides.  What gives?

If you’re looking for “just the facts”, this isn’t the blog for you. The data and the details have been scrutinized beyond scrutiny.  Were his hands up?  Did he have a gun?  Was he a criminal?  Undoubtedly, whatever “side” you are on will cloud your assessment of any of the “facts”.

Whatever you think is true is debatable. But what isn’t debatable is that these incidents are happening.  Whether it’s a toy gun, a crazed jaywalker or someone screaming “I can’t breathe”, these incidents are happening.  No one is debating their existence, but from there the red sea of opinion miraculously parts.

Truth is absolute. Truth is fact.  Truth is immutable.  If truth is so absolute, how can there be so many different renditions of it?  How can perspective change the “truth”?  How can one group of people believe that an innocent man was gunned down for jaywalking, while another group feels he is the “demon” criminal scourge of the earth?  How can young black men be both villains and victims?  How can the police be both selfless protectors and Ku Klux Klan crazed killers?  If truth is so scientifically pure, how can our interpretation of it be so profoundly different?

The answer is pretty easy. “Truth” does exist.  It is measureable.  It is calculable.  But it is clouded by a very necessary and primal emotion.  The thing that changes our interpretation of truth is… Fear!

If we sift through the data, in Ferguson and Cleveland and New York, we will find one consistent theme. We will find that the truth is muddied by fear.  The officer in Ferguson, who was protecting himself from an unarmed lethal attack, called his attacker a “demon”.  What an odd word to describe someone.  Calling him a demon implies that his attacker was endowed with superhuman evil.  If he was a “demon”, the officer had no choice but to be scared.

Those on the other side of the fence, see an innocent law-abiding unarmed young man who simply ran away from the cops and was shot in cold blood. Again, we know that also isn’t entirely true.  In 2005, I was followed by a County Sheriff for 15 miles.  Eventually with gun drawn, he pulled me over, handcuffed me and laid be face-down on the street.  The officer was white and if you didn’t know, I am black.

When I hear the Ferguson story or the story of the 12 year old shot in Cleveland or the man choked in New York, fear clouds my judgment. Fear changes what the Ferguson truth is.  My experiences with this and many other police officers change my view of the “truth” in Ferguson.

So here we are. Slavery abolished.  Civil rights achieved.  And still we scare the you-know-what out of each other.  No matter where you land on the political spectrum this ought to sadden you.  Because of our fears, a cop’s life is ruined and a young man is dead.  The same fear that created so much conflict in Ferguson was the same fear that left me handcuffed, face-down, on the ground.

Was he an innocent young man with a bright future or was he an unrelenting demon that could power through bullets? Was he an unsuspecting peace officer protecting himself from certain demise or was he a racist who prejudged a man based on the color of his skin?  We will never really know what the “truth” is.  As long as we continue to view the world through lenses of fear, we will always live in conflict.

I hope I don’t get pulled over on the way home….

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Ray Rice and Kim Kardashian?

cheerleaderThis story has probably been talked about way too much and please forgive me for being a little late to the party. Needless to say, most people, except for a few miscreants, agree.  Ray Rice’s assault of his soon to be wife was childish, cowardly and gutless.  I wouldn’t be the first to argue that both he and the NFL commissioner should be banned from football.

It’s bad enough that Ray Rice assaulted his wife, but it’s unforgiveable that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t understand the severity of Rice’s actions.

There seems to be general consensus that the punishment didn’t fit the crime and that Goodell was understandably negligent.  But that’s old news and I apologize for reopening old wounds.

Although sensational, this story didn’t surprise me. This wouldn’t be the first athlete in any sport who turned on their aggression somewhere other than on the field.  Why shouldn’t Ray Rice be confused?  Most sports, except maybe synchronized swimming, are enhanced by aggression.

Our society supports this odd contradiction.  Sports contests are equated to great military conquests.  Aggression is encouraged, supported and even taught.  And when the lights go off, the aggression is supposed to miraculously be turned off too.

When I saw Ray Rice hit his soon to be wife (who could one day be my daughter), I felt like I wanted to vomit.  How could he treat a woman that way?  And then it hit me.  He treats women this way, because he was taught to treat women this way!

Every October the NFL “honors” breast cancer awareness month and women by wearing pink.  They strut up and down the field parading their pink socks, towels and gloves.  In the midst of their effort to honor, athletes run by scantily clad cheerleaders who cheer at any sign of aggression.

That’s the paradox. That’s where the NFL fails.  That’s where our society fails to “honor” our women, no matter how much pink they decide to wear.

Say what you want about Ray Rice, but part of his problem is part of our problem. As a society, it’s clear that we don’t respect women.  Like the NFL, women in our society are treated like commodities.  Both males and females have bought into this perverse paradox.  We should be mad at Ray Rice and Roger Goodell, but we probably should be just as angry at ourselves.

Don’t believe me, just ask Kim Kardashian!

Slightly Different!

doc mu


 

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The Effort = The Reward?

There I was, drenched in sweat.  Unfortunately the older I get, I feel like I am more former than athlete.  I used to work out to get better and now I work out to avoid getting worse.  I still feel like an athlete.  I still look like an athlete.  Alas, I am far from an athlete.

This could have been titled “The death of an athlete”.  But that isn’t necessarily true either.  In many ways, I am more competitive than I have ever been.  And that’s what started it all.  I waltzed into the gym ready to do my typical workout and there he was.  He was on the elliptical jamming away.  I got on the machine next to him.

He was moving pretty fast.  I almost fell trying to see his screen.  There it began, it was officially a race.  If he went fast, I went faster.  I’m not sure how long he was there before me, but I’ll be dammed if I quit before he does.  And there we were, an epic saga about two former athletes locked in a life or death elliptical battle!  O how the mighty have fallen.

I would have died before I let him out hustle me.  I could hear the whirring of his machine slow.  He looked over, grabbed his water, stepped off the machine and limped around the corner.  Victory!  I looked down at my screen, because I hadn’t really been paying attention to it.  It read 55 minutes, not amazing but impressive.

I had burned 700 calories and travelled about 6 miles.  I figured I’d get to an hour and take a picture of my accomplishment.  I didn’t even feel tired.  I was invigorated by the battle and my new goal.  That’s when it all went awry.  At 59 minutes and 30 seconds, the screen went blank.  It was totally blank.  My accomplishment disappeared, poof!

treadmillI stood there, dismayed.  The screen read 3 seconds, 0 miles and 0 calories burned.  It was all for nothing, a complete waste of time.  I had nothing to show for all my effort.  Nobody would see how hard I had worked.  All that effort didn’t seem worth it without the reward.

This is a typical example of how we really don’t understand success.  We tend to spend most of our time looking at the screen.  When we expend our success effort, we expect to see a result.  Without the result, we inappropriate assume it wasn’t worth the effort.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Results are important, but they don’t always tell the whole story.  Results don’t always follow every single effort.  We should be a little more sophisticated than Pavlov’s dog.  There are times when we may fail.  There are time when we may fall.  There are times when the entire screen suddenly and inexplicably goes blank.

As devastated as I was about not being able to see the score that did not change the accomplishment.  I still burned the same calories, travelled the same distance and spent the same amount of time trying to rekindle my athletic prowess.  The only difference is that my accomplishment couldn’t be blasted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Many of us are too preoccupied with what people will think.  It doesn’t matter who knows what you’ve done.  Your success should come from the effort.  You shouldn’t need a scoreboard to determine the success of your effort.  You shouldn’t need social media validation.  You shouldn’t always need a result to justify your effort.

There will be many failures and blank screens along the way to your success.  The reward will come as long as the effort is there.

Slightly Different,

doc mu


 

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Healthcare blog

Here is a link to a blog I wrote on another website.

http://www.acutecarecontinuum.com/Home/tabid/84/entryid/287/A-Little-EQ-in-the-ED-Goes-a-Long-Way-Trust-Me.aspx


 

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Perfect Attendance

perfect attendanceI can honestly say, I am not a fan of school awards. When a student wins the “math award”, it is thought to be a testament to his or her proficiency in math. Theoretically, that student is the best math student in the class. That student had the best performance in that environment. Well that’s just it. We assume merit awards are based on intellect and performance. In the eyes of most people, these awards are a measure of how “smart” a child is.

The challenge with this philosophy is this. Many of our schools teach with only one kind of child in mind, although there are many with different learning styles. Some are auditory learners, they need to hear it to learn it. Some are visual learners, they need to see it to learn it. And some are even kinesthetic learners, they need to do it to learn it. Unfortunately, most schools and teachers teach one way or the other. I’m not blaming the schools or the teachers. It’s just impossible to teach that many styles to that many children. They just don’t have the time.

This is well understood among educators. They know that it is almost impossible to reach every single kid in every single class. Despite their best efforts, even the best teachers and schools admittedly struggle with this. Even though most experts recognize this difficult deficiency, they still participate in the archaic ritual of rewarding one student over another. In their hearts and minds, educators know that math award recipient may not be all that special. That student may just be the auditory learner who excelled, because of her auditory teacher. While the auditory learner was on stage and smiling from ear to ear, the kinesthetic learner was ghost writing numbers in the dust on the gym floor.

We have incorrectly attributed peak performance to students, rather than systems, teachers and schools. Parents rush up to the podium with their cameras, smiling from ear to ear, snapping picture after picture of their future MENSA, valedictorian, rocket scientist. They do so only to be disappointed the following year, when their visual learner just can’t seem to understand the kinesthetic teacher.

If a school or teacher is really doing their job, they shouldn’t be giving awards to anybody for performance. If you have students that are doing “better” than other students, it is natural to think that it is a function of the student. However, it could also be a function of what and how students are being taught. Instead of individual students marching up to the stage with their chests out, we should probably recognize the teachers and schools that elevate their entire class.

If that’s the case, what should we measure? How would we separate one child’s performance from another? That’s easy, one word. Effort! There is one award that is a true measure of a child’s commitment to learning. That award is perfect attendance. Perfect attendance shows the commitment of the child and the family to education. Of course there are unforeseen circumstances that could limit who could get this award. But for the most part, perfect attendance measures what is truly intrinsic to the student. Learning is impossible, if you are not present. If you are from a family when even Disney’s overwhelming happiness can’t pull you away from the pursuit of education that should be rewarded.

Failing a test or missing an answer is correctable. Most people can learn, given the right opportunity, time and teaching style. However, learning is impossible if the student isn’t present. Success in your career is impossible if you are always calling in sick. Being a good parent, a good spouse or a good anything all have the same prerequisite. They all require perfect attendance.

Slighty different,

doc mu.


 

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Father’s Day

fathersFirst of all, I want to thank everybody for all of their Father’s Day wishes.  It feels good to be acknowledged.  I appreciate all the fanfare, adulation and praise that comes along with being a father on Father’s day.  Although I do humbly appreciate all the attention, I am sorry to say that it is entirely unwarranted.

It isn’t just Hallmark, unfortunately Father’s Day is a reflection of our society.  In today’s bizarre world, we believe we should be acknowledged for what is expected.  I am blessed to be a father, but I shouldn’t get credit for what is expected.  Being a father is my duty, my job, and it is what I am supposed to do.  I shouldn’t receive any fanfare, adulation or praise for what is expected.

It seems that we have become a society where we acknowledge the average, where we reward the regular, where we honor the ordinary.  There is no need to acknowledge me for something that should be as necessary as breathing or as natural as walking down the street.  It is my pleasure, honor and duty to be the best father I can be and no one should be thanking me for that.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

zero toleranceOn May 24, 2014, the unthinkable happened. Six people were gunned down by the merciless hands of a rampaging lunatic.  Elliot Rodger’s actions on that day irreversibly and inexplicably changed hundreds of lives.  His twisted and convoluted fantasy unfortunately found its way into our reality.  There is no question that we all believe he was evil, warped and sick.  In debate after debate, experts hypothesize why and how this could have happened.  They engage in wild conjecture, in an effort to determine how someone could have become so inhumane.

Our society thrives on stability. What scares us is not just the horrific and inexcusable act.  What scares us is not knowing how to predict it.  Predictable acts of violence, like war, are devastating enough.  But unpredictable, random and uncoordinated violence is downright nuclear.

Isn’t it confusing? Haven’t we accounted for this?  We have outlawed bullying.  We have banned fighting.  We have created a culture of zero tolerance.  You would think that our societal zero tolerance would have suppressed such behavior.  Aggressive, inappropriate and unwanted behaviors should have been annihilated in the kindergarten cafeteria.  But of course, it isn’t that simple.

20 years ago, there was no zero tolerance. It didn’t exist.  During those times, these types of heinous acts didn’t seem to happen.  Kids were allowed to, within reason, fight it out.  When there was a conflict or confrontation is was dealt with swiftly.  Those kids were disciplined, not ejected.  They were educated, not rejected.  They were reformed, not ignored.

Their perverse and wayward ways were not allowed to proliferate outside of the confines of the school structure. Expelling a child for fighting may sound like the right call.  But maybe the right call is to find out why he’s fighting.  Maybe the right call is to find out why he’s hurting.  Maybe the right thing to do is understand why he thinks he needs to use violence to achieve his goal.  That requires tolerance, not zero tolerance.

This is a complex tragedy and it cannot be simply explained by one seemingly unrelated policy. The problem with random violent acts is that they are random violent acts.  We will try to analyze and explain them away, but sometimes we can’t predict what we can’t predict.

However, there are things that we can predict. We can predict that not engaging these marginal personalities early in their development will proliferate their oddities.  We can predict that a bully will remain a bully until he or she gets that first school yard beat down.  We can predict that the more we marginalize the fringes of our youth, the more the fringes of our youth will be marginalized.

Instead of ignoring problem children, we need to double down when we see they are having problems. We need get to them early and often.  We need to seek them out and let them know we are watching them.  We need to let them know, we will not sit idly back and let them become monsters.  It is for these things that we should have zero tolerance.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Kids Will Be Kids!?

kids will be kids“May I take your order?” She said, in that annoyingly polite tone that begged for a quick and succinct answer. That was your cue. Your leisurely perusal of the menu was indeed complete. It isn’t your fault that you took so long. You could hardly hear yourself think. It should have been date night for the red faced couple sitting across from you, but grandma cancelled again. It was obvious that they had given up. One child was challenging the other in a carrot throwing three point contest. The other was barely visible, his head peeked out from the top of the high chair. Both disgusted and sympathetic he cringed and the slightly worn parents shrugged. “Kids will be kids!”

Kids will be kids?!

Haven’t we all heard or said this before.  It is a fairly innocuous statement.  When we say we want kids to be kids, we are acknowledging the care free years that should accompany youth.  We say this, because we are protecting them from the rigors, structure and accountability that makes our 18th birthday so frightful.  We want our kids to stay kids, because we want to delay their inevitable date with misery. We want to prolong the time it takes for them to become us.  Our efforts to save them are valiant, but they may be shortsighted.

Growing up in a loving and happy environment is essential for a well-adjusted future contributor to our society. But, that is where we confuse things. Many of us exchange happiness for recklessness. We let our kids be kids, because privately we want to rip the shackles of structure from our own lives. We would rather let them be free than live the confined, constrained and controlled life of adulthood.

The emotional tether to our beloved kids may be exactly what hinders them.  Kids of today aren’t profoundly different than the kids of yesterday.  It is the parents of today that are profoundly different than the parents of yesterday. The indifference of the millennials and the fatalism of the “you only live once” generation are not a product of the new millennium. That generation’s idiosyncrasies are a product of their parents. Instead of structure, accountability and rigor, they were allowed to be kids.

Kids need opportunities to let their hair down. They need to explore and imagine and make believe they are super heroes. However, they also need structure. They need us to set the rules. It is incumbent upon us to create an environment that allows them to understand the world that they have to grow up in. Kids will be kids, but kids will also be adults!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Trust No One?!

trustnooneIf you’re anything like me, you’re a little bit of a skeptic.  Being a skeptic isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It just means that you require a little more convincing than most.  In other words, what you believe is usually not based on your beliefs.  To change your mind or sway your soul requires unbiased evidence.  “Show me the data.”  How many times have you said that?  That skepticism makes you a little more logical, makes you question everything and makes it a little more difficult to trust.

For any true skeptic, trust is a four letter word.  Trust implies a belief in something or someone without any evidence.  In the medical field, providers have a saying.  “Trust no one”.  In the realm of critical thinking, trust is amateurish and laughable.  It is reserved for children and fools.  Trust is a skeptic’s worst nightmare, because it lacks supporting evidence or data.

If you want to make someone cringe, ask them if they trust the government.  Even if you have a core group of infallible and trustworthy friends, would you say that you trust them?  Whether you are a skeptic or not, trusting anyone is a difficult thing to do.  If we are honest with ourselves, most of the time we would echo our friends in the medical field and “trust no one”.  Or would we?

Even for the skeptics, the data and evidence about our ability to trust is far from what we would assume.  We actually are more trusting that we could ever imagine.  It isn’t just family and friends.  We trust blindly and broadly, without the bat of an eye.  Don’t believe me.  Of course not!

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 2009, there are 254,212,610 registered passenger vehicles in the United States.  What in the world do cars and trucks have to do with trust?  Each day that you get into your car and drive to work, you are essentially trusting 250 million people with your life.  You are trusting each of them to stop at each stop light, to stay on their side of the road and not run into you when you are parked at a stop sign.

It doesn’t stop there.  You trust the teacher of your child.  You trust the pilot to fly you to Hawaii.  You trust the UPS driver to leave that package at your front door.  Skeptic or not, your life is rife with trust.  Yes, there are rules.  Rules and laws that protect drivers, children and air travelers.  But for rules to work, we have to trust that people abide by them.

If we really look closely at all of those we inadvertently and unknowingly trust, we would change our outlook on trust.  No matter how independent you think you are, you cannot exist in this world without trusting someone.  This doesn’t mean you should trust recklessly and blindly, but it does highlight how dependent we all are on each other.

TrustWe trust one another more than we choose to acknowledge.  Even for the most diehard skeptic, the evidence shows us that instead of trusting no one, we probably should trust everyone.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Doubt me! Please!!

How many times has your mother told you that you shouldn’t let things bother you?  Your father made sure that you knew that names could never hurt you.  You swear that you’ll teach your kids to ignore what people say about them.

“Don’t listen to their hurtful words.  Don’t take them on.  Don’t let them get to you.  Ignore them.  Don’t engage.”  The people that say these things to us are trying to help us.  They are trying to make us stronger.

They believe that things that hurt us will weaken us.  They believe that negative thoughts will limit our performance.  They believe that the things that bother us will hold us back.

doubtBut, that’s where they’re entirely wrong.  It is understandable that the people who love us would spend their efforts protecting us from pain.  It isn’t unreasonable of them to believe that positivity promotes performance.  However, they may be promoting the exact opposite.

We shouldn’t avoid the things that bother us.  We should embrace them.  We should internalize them.  We should use them to motivate us.  When they doubt you, don’t ignore them.  Accept that doubt and use it to prove them wrong.

To achieve, pain is necessary.  Sometimes success requires harboring that negativity.  What they say shouldn’t be ignored, it should bother you every single day.  Instead of a disadvantage, it should be an advantage.  Engage those who believe you will not succeed.  Use their negativity to create positivity.

The things that hurt shouldn’t weaken you, they should strengthen you.  Negative thoughts shouldn’t limit performance, they should enhance it.  The things that bother you shouldn’t hold you back, they should catapult you to new heights.

That doubt is exactly what you need to succeed.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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We work hard?!

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who believes he or she doesn’t work hard. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at your friend’s Facebook posts. If you talk to anyone at the end of their 8 hour shift or their 12 hour day, they will inevitably tell you how exhausted they are. They will understandably tell you about all the hours of selfless sacrifice that so often goes unnoticed.

We get to work early and we stay late. We believe working hard is a dominant part of our DNA. It is who we are. It is what we do. We all believe. Rather, we all know that we work hard. Wait a second! How can that be possible? How can we all work hard all of the time? Well, there is a simple answer. We don’t.

You may think that you are the hardest working person in showbiz, but the truth is that none of us really works as hard as we could. At the end of our day, we usually have something left in the tank. Let’s be honest. The luxury of our first world rarely requires us to work all that hard. Although there are a few, most of us aren’t digging ditches for a living. I am not afraid to say it, we are rather soft.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Working hard isn’t clicking a mouse. It isn’t typing on a keyboard. It isn’t sitting in a chair. Even as I write this blog, which is vaguely interpreted as work, I am sitting comfortably contemplating what snack I want to eat next. It can’t be hard work if I can gain weight doing it.

hard workI’m sorry if I have offended some of you. I’m sorry if somehow I have discredited your version of hard work. I just want all of us to remember how good we have it. Most of us don’t dig ditches for a living in 100 degree heat. Most of us don’t hunt for our dinner, catch fish for the entire village or toil for 18 hours a day for pennies.

Compared to the rest of the world, we probably get paid more than we deserve for doing what we do. That’s not our fault. We aren’t to blame. We shouldn’t apologize for where we live or how fortunate we are. However, we shouldn’t walk around with our noses in the air bragging about how hard we work.

We may work harder than the schmuck in the next cubicle. But, in the larger scheme of humankind, our hard work may not be that hard at all. Hard work is relative. It is relative to whom we compare ourselves to. We should be careful about declaring ourselves hard work superstars, without understanding what hard work really is.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Non-Standard!

She looked at him sternly.  He squinted, looked down and played with the tag on his collar.  Yes, he wore his shirt backwards again.  A few of his friends, if you can call them that, giggled.  It was clear from the way she looked at him that she was frustrated.  It was clear from the way he looked at her that he was frustrated.  It was always a battle.  He knew what he should do, but couldn’t bring himself to do it.  She was tired of asking him to follow the rules and he was tired of trying to follow them.

It was an awkward and unproductive stalemate.  But, it isn’t all that rare.  This kind of standoff is fairly typical in our schools.  We believe our children require structure.  Simply, they should follow the rules.  They should do as they’re told.  After all, they are children.  Just like our schools, society is rife with rules.  To be an effective and productive member of society, it is necessary to follow them.  Rules create structure.  They give us a foundation to build from.  Without them, we would plummet into unruly chaos.  Or would we?

Think about most of the innEinsteinovations over the past century.  Our society has improved exponentially, because of the ability of a few individuals to think differently.  Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were successful because of their ability to think differently.

They were non-standard.  They were unorthodox.  They didn’t always follow the “rules”.  Even though innovation has changed the world, we still try to restrict it.  Follow the rules, do what you’re told and you will be the perfect student, employee or citizen.  Our schools, our companies and our society promote this robotic compliance.  We evaluate each other based on how close we are to the predetermined standard.

When have you seen a report card with a grade for innovation?  When was the last time your boss gave you a raise for creativity?  How do you create a standard for what is non-standard?  If we continue to reward the norm, we will continue to promote what is normal.  If we encourage what is standard, we will continue to generate results that are standard.

Don’t let your leaders, your teachers, your bosses or anybody else box you in.  Think differently and always challenge the norm.  Always challenge what is standard.  If you can’t match the standard, go ahead and create a new one!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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What’s Your Seed?

It seems like they have more on the line.  Every play, every possession, every decision commands the utmost concentration.  I’m not sure it means any more to them, but it sure looks like it means a lot more to them.  The only people in the gym more focused than the players in the game were the ones on the bench.  People talk about Cinderellas and underdogs.  That’s what they call them.  They didn’t listen.  They don’t call themselves that.

On April 7th, two great basketball programs will clash for the NCAA division 1 Basketball Championship.  The tournWhat's Your Seedament selects the top 64 teams in the nation and ranks them.  If you have ever watched the tournament, you have noticed that teams are always listed by their seed.  For example, Cincinnati always had a 5 seed next to their name.  The number 12 hovered just over North Dakota State.  At times, even the commentators would forget the team’s name and just list their seed.

The days and weeks before the tournament are overwhelmed with angst, speculation and conjecture.  Players, coaches and fans are preoccupied with their team’s rank.  They want to know where they will be in the bracket.  They want to know where they will stand.  They are consumed with what their seed will be.

Sounds a little bit like everyday life.  Most of us live everyday overwhelmed with angst, speculation and conjecture.  We become preoccupied with our rank.  We want to know where we will be in the bracket.  Just like the teams in the tournament, we want to know where we stand and what our seed will be.

The two teams playing in the championship game are not very interested in their rank.  The 7th seeded University of Connecticut has beaten a 10 seed, a 2 seed, a 3 seed and a 4 seed.  The 8th seeded University of Kentucky has beaten a 9 seed, a 1 seed, a 4 seed and a 2 seed.  It’s obvious that these teams couldn’t care less about their seed.  Obviously, they don’t walk around with that little magic number over their heads.

These teams don’t care that 26 other teams were supposed to be better than them.  They don’t need a rank to know where they stand.  They aren’t overwhelmed with the angst, speculation and conjecture that goes along with being validated by someone else.  They were not going to let anyone else define them.  They are not Cinderellas or underdogs.  As far as they were concerned, the two teams playing for the nation championship are both self-designated number ones.

This should be the same at work, at school and in everything we do.  We can wait patiently and become preoccupied with where society’s selection committee ranks us.  We can become overwhelmed with the angst, speculation and conjecture that follows.  We can sit around and wait for the world to tell us what bracket we are in.  Or, we can define ourselves, create or own rank and make every single number one seed quiver.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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The God Probability

It isn’t surprising that religion has been at the heart of many major conflicts throughout history.  Religion is one of those topics that most of us try to steer away from.  Whatever they may be, our religious beliefs are intertwined with our emotions.  Things can get testy, when debating the things that people strongly believe in.

After all, a belief is not something that you can argue.  By definition, belief is faith in an outcome or result for which there isn’t diffuse and overwhelming data.  The difference between the devoutly religious and the atheists is simply the difference in their belief.  If these two individuals were to argue, each would present evidence that the other would argue is not evidence.  That is how the conflict arises.

In math and science these debates are far more tolerable.  In these disciplines, debate and argument are part of the process.  When a theory is presented and evidence submitted, peers are asked to review and argue the findings.  When a scientist has a belief, it is called a hypothesis.

mathematics6At their core, hypotheses are essentially beliefs that can then either be proven or disproven.  Math is even more rigid.  There are specific rules about how numbers interact.  It’s not that you can’t prove that 2+2=5, it’s just that you have to use an accepted set of mathematical rules to prove it.

When math and science encounter an unknown, believe me there is a lot that mathematicians and scientists don’t know, they have a calculation for it.  That calculation is called probability.  Probability describes the likelihood that something is true.  Essentially, it is the mathematical version of belief.  It is the scientific version of faith.

Some scientists believe in the existence of aliens, because their calculations of that possibility reveal a high probability of alien’s existence.  Other scientists have faith that aliens do not exist, because their calculations of that possibility reveal a low probability.  However, they usually don’t start wars because of their mathematical and scientific differences.  They simply battle with data, evidence and rules.

godWell, what if we did that with religion?  What if we tried to use mathematics to argue the likelihood or the probability of God’s existence?  Now you’re paying attention!  Before you get too emotional, let’s use mathematics, rules and evidence to compare two hypotheses.

Let’s assume that you believe in God.  What are the probable outcomes from doing so?  There are two.  If you believe in God, do all the right things and he does exist, you will get to heaven.  If you believe in God, do all the right things and he doesn’t exist, nothing will happen.  In other words, if you believe in God there is a 50% chance of going to heaven and a 100% chance of not going to hell.

Now for the converse.  Let’s assume that you don’t believe in God.  What are the probable outcomes of that action?  Again, there are two.  If you don’t believe in God and God exists, there will be a lot of lightning bolts in your future.  If you don’t believe in God and God does not exist, nothing will happen.  In this scenario, not believing in God gives you 50% chance of hell and a 50% chance that nothing will happen.

Based on the mathematics, believing in God gives you a higher probability of having a favorable outcome than not believing.  Of course, this does not prove that God exists.  Your faith is still necessary for that.  However, it does prove that believing in God gives you a higher probability of attaining a favorable outcome.  It also proves that not believing in God has an uncomfortable probability of fire and brimstone.

O hell, I need to go to church!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Reality TV

As I get older, I am growing more and more frustrated with television. The number of channels and programs keep expanding and the number of quality shows keep contracting. I guess I am still holding out for modern versions of Star Trek, The Cosby Show and Family Ties. Because I miss them so much, I have adopted the collective personalities of Jean Luc Picard, Dr. Huxtable and Alex P. Keaton.

In those days, television shows had more substance and helped us understand the calculus of life. These programs were thought provoking. They explored, exposed and explained the world around us. As I flip through the four hundred or so channels, I can’t help but notice a profound change.

imageWhile there are numerous scathing examples of shows that add nothing to society, I couldn’t help but focus on what seemed to be a fairly innocuous one. No, it wasn’t about the Honey Boo Boo. It wasn’t about naked survival. Alas, it wasn’t even American Idol. The show that made me wish I could vomit to relieve my intractable nausea was Undercover Boss.

I know. I know! This is one of the good ones. It is one of those feel good underdog reality shows. This is the kind of show that stands up for the little guy. Most of us feel it’s the kind of show that, in the end, actually does some good. CBS entertainment describes Undercover Boss as a “reality show where bosses in disguise work amongst their employees to see how their companies really function.”

What! That’s when my jaw dropped. What’s the message here? First of all, the leaders should already know how their company works on the ground. Secondly, you’re probably not a very good leader if no one knows who you are? If you are a boss that is selected to be on this show, two things are clear. Nobody knows you and you have no idea how your company functions on the ground. What kind of leader is that?

At some level, we are all bosses. Whether we are middle management or simply the boss of our own household, there are a few requirements necessary for us to be successful. We must be present, visible and know what is happening on the ground. This is true for our spouses. This is true for our kids. This is definitely true for our jobs.

Whether you are a parent, leader, boss, teacher, senator or even the President of the United States, to be successful you must be present, visible and know what is happening on the ground.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

 

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Minority Report

minority reportIn winter of 2008, the American voters did something they had never done before.  After all the rhetoric and after all the ballots were counted, the American people had made history.  Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States.  Irrespective of your political influence, this was an historic day for America.  Considering all the racial tumult that the country has been through and considering he was elected only one generation after the civil rights movement, this event signaled a major change in America.  For many Americans, the odds of this occurring were astronomical.  Haley’s Comet hitting earth seemed more likely.

After the fanfare, speeches and protests, we all realized that Barack Obama was a politician.  There were areas where he excelled and other areas where he struggled.  He stayed true to his political base and supported those who supported him.  He pushed through laws that some wanted and forced through laws that others didn’t want.  Though he accomplished something historic, at the end of the day he was just another politician.  He will be evaluated through the “first African American President” lenses, but he more appropriately should be evaluated based on his merits.

Martin_Luther_KingMartin Luther King asked the American establishment to judge all people based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  However, we have done the exact opposite.  Instead of talking about the 44th president of the United States of America, we talk about the first African American President.  It is understandable.  After all we have been though as a nation, we want to point out great accomplishments like this.  They are the markers of change, the signs of the time.  But that isn’t necessarily what Martin Luther King and those who marched on Washington asked for.

As a society we really need to change our tune.  We need to change our language.  We need to heed the teachings that Mr. King left us.  We should stop using those patronizing terms, the first black this, the first Hispanic that.  These titles are well intentioned, but we should stop acknowledging accomplishments based on the color of one’s skin.  We should start acknowledging accomplishments based on the content of one’s character.

We need to start focusing less on who people are and more on what they do.  Then and only then will we be fulfilling the essence of the Civil Rights movement.  We should hope that we all can pursue excellence and get acknowledged for what we do and not who we are.  We should be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

Slightly different.

doc mu


 

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Immigration Reform

He didn’t dare shake her hand.  He briefly put his hands into his pockets and then quickly pulled them out.  That was disrespectful.  He stood up straight.  He borrowed his friend’s tie.  It was way too short, but he thought he should wear it.  He paced like an expectant father and shuttered every time the door opened.  He wanted them to call his name.  He didn’t want them to call his name.  How do you prepare for one of the biggest days of your life?  How could they take it for granted?  They didn’t know what they had?  How could they?  They were born with it.

They startled him when they finally called his name.  He behaved as though he had forgotten why he was there.  Every sentence ended in “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”, as he slowly walked down the hall.  He sat down at the disheveled desk, as she refilled through his file.  Can’t change it now, but he couldn’t help wondering if he had made any mistakes.  She knew he knew the answers.  She asked them anyway.  He would respectfully pause and answer flawlessly.  He couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.  She was honored that he was overwhelmed.  He couldn’t help it.

Passport immigrationFor 757,434 people, this was their story.  Three quarters of a million people legally became citizens in 2012.  Three quarters of a million people filled out paperwork, were fingerprinted and studied American history.  Three quarters of a million people were sworn in as new citizens of the United States of America.  For them this was a dream come true, the fruition of their greatest desire.  This was the day they had longed for.  Hopefully, they would no longer feel foreign.  They would no longer feel different.  They would no longer feel like they didn’t fit in.

To some degree, we are all immigrants to this great land.  From the founding fathers to the most recent landed permanent resident, we all have immigrant heritages.  Most of us, our parents or our parents’ parents immigrated to this great country to pursue a better life.  We came to pursue better opportunities.  We came to be Americans.  This immigrant entrepreneurial spirit is what has pioneered the American spirit.  It has created a vast and diverse melting pot.  It has created the very fabric of what it means to be American.

Immigrants, for the most part, are fueled by their oddity.  What makes them different is what makes them so determined to succeed.  Not fitting in could be disheartening, but it also could be what motivated them to work even harder to fit in.  Not being American motivated them to work harder to be American.  If we are truly honest with ourselves and really examine this great country’s history, we will find that our entrepreneurship is not as indigenous as we think.  It stands to reason that we owe our American entrepreneurship to our immigrant roots.

Most immigrants, like our forefathers, made wine out of water.  They came with nothing and spent their lives creating something.  They cobbled together the language.  They made familiar what was strange.  They made a home in a foreign land.  They didn’t complain about working a five dollar an hour job, when everyone else was making ten.  They just worked twice as many hours.

If we all remember that at some point we were immigrants, we would see the world in a slightly different way.  We would remember how to make something from nothing.  We would make familiar what was strange.  We would work two five dollar an hour jobs, instead of complaining about the ten dollars an hour we were making.  We would show up at McDonalds with our Burger King uniform on.  If we viewed the world through the eyes of an immigrant, maybe we would realize how lucky we are to be American.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Groupthink

groupthink“Anyone have any questions?”  His head swiveled around the room.  He had very open and honest eyes.  The kind of eyes that could see into your heart, if you weren’t careful.  Everybody was decidedly careful.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have opinions.  It was that they didn’t have opinions they wanted to share.  Everybody smiled.  These weren’t necessarily smiles of approval.  These were the smiles of heavyweight fighters that survived twelve losing rounds.  These were the smile of children, who secretly feed asparagus to the dog.  These were the smiles you give waitress, after she spills your drinks.

There is a very inspiring Dr. Pepper commercial that touts the slogan “1/1”.  The commercial shows glimpses of millennials doing new and different things.  They are engaged in activities that are unconventional.  They are doing things that don’t necessarily fit the stereotype.  What is so inspiring about the commercial is the idea that we are all unique.  One in a million is not so special in a world of billions.  But one of one, now that’s special.

dr-pepper-one-of-a-kind-featimgWhat struck me about this brilliant commercial is the message.  The Dr. Pepper commercial isn’t creating a new social concept.  They are merely reflecting where our society is.  Being one of one is thought to be better than being one of many.  One of many implies conformity.  One of one implies uniqueness.  The message is liberating and clear.  Individuals no longer have to find a way to fit society.  Society has to find a way to fit the individual.  Martin Luther King would be proud!

Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo.  For most groups, companies, corporations and teams, the message flew right over their inflated heads.  Most of corporate America is trying to fit a square peg into a not so square hole.  They are building “one of many” organizations with “one of one” individuals.  It’s not purposeful or malicious, they just don’t get it.  If kids grow up believing that they are one of one, why are we creating companies that depreciate individuality?  Our schools are constructed primarily for the large part of the bell curve, not for the one of one.

If Copernicus just smiled and nodded, the sun would miraculously still orbit the earth.  If Steve jobs didn’t speak up, you wouldn’t be reading this on your smartphone.  If what we should think is always different than what we are thinking, then our ability to innovate is lost.  Our companies’ ability to innovate will be squandered.  Our society’s ability to innovate will be weakened.

If promotions hinge on compliance, if grades depend on conformity, if employers require acquiescence, we will not succeed.  Thinking right does not mean thinking alike.  The people and companies and teams and employees that are able to capture the minds of the “one of ones” will help to create a bold new world where the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth.

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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Bracket Busters!

Bracket BusterThere they are.  Screaming wildly.  It took three flights to get there, but that was part of the excitement.  The anticipation was part of the allure.  The journey was just as important as the destination.  Unfortunately, they paid for their seats.  They didn’t sit once.  Each of their faces were haphazardly painted.  Hard to be precise, when they were running late.  Their parents laughed at their giddiness.  They laughed at their parents.  Where did they get those IDs?  If you can’t be on the team, this has got to be the next best thing.

This is March Madness.  A time when thousands of fans trek across the country to cheer for their teams.  Because only one teams win, most fans make the pilgrimage knowing that they will lose at some point.  Whether their team wins or loses is not just based on their performance.  It is also a function of their draw.  Success may be predicated more on who they play, rather than how they play.

Each and every year, we waste precious time filling out brackets.  Even the experts, try to predict the outcome.  Pick the best conferences.  Pick the best players.  Pick the best coaches.  Most of us just guess.  We look at their records.  We look at their history.  We look at what they have done and what we think they will do.  Even the President fills out a bracket.  Shouldn’t he be doing something more important?

PicMonkey Collage bracket bustersWe believe our logic is pretty sound.  That is, we believe it until our brackets are busted.  For most us, even though most won’t admit it, our brackets are busted after the first few games.  As disturbing as it may be, we don’t predict anything very well.  As much as we try to ignore it, we can’t predict what we can’t predict.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at the evidence.  After the first round of the NCAA Division 1 basketball championships, the average seed of the winning team was 6.  If every higher seeded team beat every lower seeded team, the average winning team seed should be 4.5.  This small difference doesn’t seem significant, until you look a little closer.  Three 12 seeds beat three 5 seeds.  Two 11 seeds beat two 6 seeds.  In the world of scientific probability that should never happen.  But, this isn’t science.

After all, the selection committee that determines these seeds are human.  They are susceptible to the same biases that we all are.  Like us, they don’t know that they can’t predict what they can’t predict.  Don’t get me wrong.  They do pretty well at predicting predictable success.  It is rare for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed.  But, they have no idea where and when the unpredictable successes will occur.

Success pursuit is eerily similar to the NCAA tournament.  We do very well at predicting the predictable successes.  From the very first time we saw him play, most of us knew Lebron James would be successful.  That said, we have a limited ability to predict those unpredictable successes.  We don’t know where and when the 12 seeds will beat the 5 seeds.  We struggle to understand where and when the 11 seeds will beat the 6 seeds.  We don’t know when these unpredictable success will occur.

What does all of this all have to do with you and your success pursuit?  If you are a 1 seed, you probably don’t have to worry.  Success for you will be very predictable.  However, most of us are not number 1 seeds.  There are only 4 of those in the NCAA tournament.  That’s 6% of all the teams in the tournament.  Most of us look more like the 11 or 12 seeds.  We struggle just to get in the gym.  For us, our success is unpredictable, but entirely possible.

You should not assume that your rank will regulate your success.  You should not succumb to your seed.  It should not matter where society’s selection committee ranks you.  Your success is unpredictable, but it is possible.  Like this year’s tournament, your 12 seed puts you in the perfect place to succeed.  Go ahead.  Bust that Bracket!

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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March Madness!

In the 20uconn11 NCAA Championship, the University of Connecticut beat the #8 seed Butler.  The score was 53-41.  Uconn star Kemba Walker was outstanding.  He was destined for the NBA and his play definitely lived up to the hype.  Uconn is a fantastic basketball school.  The program has churned out multiple NBA prospects and has been one of the winningest college programs in history.

The data doesn’t lie.  Uconn is the 8th winningest program in NCAA Division 1 history.  They have commandeered 28 regular season championships, seven conference tournaments and three elusive NCAA Division 1 Championships.  If you are a college basketball prospect and you want to win, Uconn is the place to be.  If you are a college basketball fan, Uconn is the team to watch.

March Madness describes the frenzy associated with the high intensity playoff basketball games.  There is nothing like it.  Thousands of student athletes put it all on the line to win college basketball’s biggest prize.  It’s better than any play by Shakespeare.  There is tragedy, romance and drama.  The fan’s scream, the players cry and we breathlessly watch.  It truly is March Madness.

However, for Uconn and several other schools, it’s March Madness for a different reason.  In 2012 University of Connecticut men’s college basketball program achieved another not so lofty accomplishment.  The NCAA released data that showed that Uconn graduated a whopping 11% of their basketball student athletes.  The number was so bad, the program was placed on academic probation.

Uconn was fantastic at training athletes, but they forget that they were training student athletes.  They were tremendous at preparing athletes bodies, but they forgot they had to prepare their minds.  There were a few that were able to capitalize on the million dollar professional basketball lottery, but how many people win the lottery.  Again, the data doesn’t lie.

What message are we giving to our kids?  What priorities are we conveying?  How many of us are going to count on winning the lottery?  Athletics are important and they are necessary for the development of our student athletes.  But, we have to remember they are student athletes.  Our college coaches make millions.  Our college professors teach millions.  The student athletes get lost in the fray.

Before you fill out your bracket, take a moment to consider this.  As you watch the games, think of where these young men may end up.  As you watch the fans screaming for the home team, force yourself to wonder.  What do we really mean when we say “March Madness?”

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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The Promotion

It’s amazing how quiet a room can be.  You were early as usual.  Early is on time and on time is late.  Why would anyone want to be late?  It was going to be an awkward conversation.  You worked so hard.  You would do anything for the company.  You would do everything for your team.  Seems they have their minds made up.  The evidence is in the silence.

It still makes you angry, when they waltz into the room 5 minutes late.  It’s disrespectful.  The meeting was supposed to start at five.  It didn’t get started at five.  Why didn’t he just start it at five?  How loud can the silence get?  Patience is among the underappreciated virtues that you hold so dear.  Just like truth, commitment and honor have all gone the way of the payphone.

You’re notBusinesspeople Running Towards Finish Line like them.  As much as you want to fit in, you really don’t want to fit in.  It’s what you worry about.  It keeps you motivated.  They know all the right people, but you do all the right things.  They must have gone for coffee.  Even if you wanted to go, you were just too busy.  They finally showed up, at fifteen after 5.  They laughed at his jokes.  You didn’t.  You force yourself to smile, as he looked at you.

It takes the entire two hour meeting for him to come clean.  It isn’t you.  You know it doesn’t really matter, but you can’t stop feeling like it really matters.  The slap on the back keeps you from standing up, the knife in your back keeps you sitting down.  He’s right over you now.  He thanks you for all your commitment to the company.  Before you leave, he has just one more thing for you to do.  Teach your new boss everything you know.  You should quit.  You won’t quit.  You’re like a dove.  You mate for life.

No matter what happens, keep doing what you do.  Just do the very best you can and everything else will fall into place.  Life has a funny way of sorting these things out.  Don’t let what they do change what you do.  They don’t measure your worth.  You don’t work hard to satisfy them.  You work hard, because anything less wouldn’t satisfy you.  Your work ethic will overpower them.  Your commitment will overwhelm them.  Your positivity will disorient them.

Hold your head high.  Thank him for the opportunity and smile.  You have to get going.  You have work to do!

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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The Last 24 Hours

She woke up, late as usual.  It’s a good thing she had packed some things the night before.  She was young, but her face betrayed her.  She loved the sun and the sun loved her back.  There isn’t enough make up to fill those cracks.  It would be close.  Her friend would be there soon.  It was unlikely that she would make it.  As she brushed her hair, she called to change the flight.  Thank God for speaker phone.  She couldn’t get through.  She might as well hustle.

She just created a new Olympic event, the 200 yard, 4 inch heeled airport dash.  This wasn’t her first time running this event and she was getting faster.  She didn’t check her luggage.  She was confident she could convince any baggage boy that got in her way.  Not one baggage boy got in her way.  Last call for Flight MH370 to Beijing.  She made it with a second to spare.

Last 24 hoursOn March 3rd, Malaysia Airlines jetliner disappeared over the waters just south of Vietnam.  The plane simply disappeared from radar.  This isn’t unheard of.  The rights to the seas and airspace in this region are highly contested.  But this wasn’t just a blip.  Flight MH370 never reappeared on radar and still has not been found.  Anytime something like this happens, we can’t help to think of the worst.  The preliminary evidence points to a disintegration of the plane at 35,000 feet.

It’s easy for us, so far removed from this tragedy, to disconnect.  We don’t know the names, the faces or the voices of the 239 human beings that are feared gone.  239 families and friends have a singular focus right now.  They are fearful that the worst has happened.  They are hopeful that the worst hasn’t happened.  They patiently wait for any information.  What a horrible feeling.  You want to know, but you don’t want to know.

If the worst is true, and I hope it isn’t, I wonder how they spent their last days.  It makes me feel better to believe that their last days were hopeful, happy and satisfying.  I want to believe that, but I know it is unlikely.  If those 239 lives were anything like ours, they spent those last days and hours in the grind.  It is likely that they were finishing that assignment or working on that project.  It is likely that they were disciplining their kids or arguing with their spouse.  It is likely that they were worried about paying the bills or not paying the bills.

This devastating tragedy made me wonder about my last 24 hours.  When will it come?  Will I be ready?  Will I spend most of it running through the airport chasing my destiny?  If this is my last 24 hours, would I be hopeful, happy and satisfied?

We can never predict when our last 24 hours will be.  We will never know when we’ll be chasing destiny through the airport.  We can’t predict what we can’t predict.  However, we do control what we do.  We have to approach everyday like it is our last 24 hours.  Everyday should be filled with hope, happiness and satisfaction.  We can’t get caught up in the grind.  We can’t control when we leave this world, but we can control what we do before we go.

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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The Perfect Employee?!

perfect employeeCuff links, who wears cuff links?  He definitely took command of the room.  His jacket fit absolutely perfectly.  His shirt looked like he tediously ironed it for hours, after it had come from the drycleaners.  His movements were limited, but not stiff.  He was so darn smooth.  He had thick black hair.  You thought it would be thinning by now.  When he spoke, you knew that he had each hour of the day planned.  Who are we kidding, he had each hour off the rest of his life planned.  His style was both casual and formal.  His white collar had a blue collar underneath.  Indeed, he was a man for all seasons.  He was, in a word, perfect.

He speaks so well, it sounds like a foreign language.  His teeth don’t look real.  He is tall dark and handsome.  His 2.5 kids haven’t missed an honor roll yet.  He is arrogant and humble at the same time.  When he pauses, everyone stops breathing.  He wasn’t a future leader.  He was the future leader.  As you watch him work the crowd, you can’t help but think.  “How can I compete with that?”

We all work with someone like this.  Someone who makes perfect seem so easy.  Though we are confident, we find ourselves wishing we were just like him.  You’re afraid to admit it.  Sometimes you hate him.  In his presence, your specs seems like planks.  Your nuances seem like nuisances.  Your oddities seem like obsessions.  You are more than comfortable being anonymous, until your boss walks in the room.  It is clear the comparison is being made.

Before you throw in the towel, before you write yourself off, before you give every promotion to that guy, remember this.  If you think you are perfect, there is no room for improvement.  His perfection isn’t your weakness.  His perfection is your strength.  He’s got it all and he expects everything.  You expect nothing.  You will fight for everything that you get.  That fight will make you better.  That fight will force you forward.  That fight is only possible, because of your lack of perfection.  Don’t purge that doubt.  Don’t lose that insecurity.  Don’t perfect that imperfection.  Use that doubt, insecurity and imperfection to motivate you to push past perfection.

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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How to get to Corporate Sesame Street.

imageC is for cookie and it’s good enough for me.  Many of my earliest memories were of the 5 minute skits made infamous by Sesame Street.  These skits were innovative, eclectic and educational.  Most of all, these skits were fun.  There is nothing more intoxicating than the thunder and lightning that ensued, after watching the Count count.  I still giggle when I hear the word “monomonop.”  Watching Kermit’s sad soliloquy about being green was inspirational.  It wasn’t easy being green for me either.  I didn’t have an imaginary friend, but I knew that it was ok if I did.  Sesame Street had characters that captured all of our subterranean feelings.  It gave kids an imaginary framework to compartmentalize their reality.  I’m not sure we even knew we were learning.  By the time I was tired of Cookie Monster, Grover was doing something crazy on the screen.  The show kept my interest for the entire hour, because it refused to waste even a minute.  This is how you keep a juvenile mind glued to one continuous hour of reading, writing and arithmetic.

In November 1969, Sesame Street aired for the first time.  Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett created Sesame Street to give all children a chance to learn and grow.  They wanted to prepare kids for school.  They wanted kids to better understand the world, dream and discover.  They wanted their viewers to reach their highest potential.  Clearly, they succeeded.  They succeeded in finding a new way to teach and created a new way for kids to learn.  At the time, Sesame Street was controversial.  Instead of teaching a few things for a long time.  The show taught many things for a shorter time.  Start with math, count counting.  Move on to spelling for two minutes.  Then quickly to problem solving, with some funny looking muppets.  This rapid change from subject to subject was how most people born after 1969 learned.  Jumping from topic to topic to topic.  If this was so effective, why do we do it so differently as adults.  As adults we spend most of our days in meetings for hours.  We spend long meetings discussing one mundane topic.  We then wonder why we are so inefficient.  We love meetings.  Even more than that, we love meetings about our future meetings.  When did we decide to change?  Why do we feel that 2 hour college classes about one subject is an effective way to learn?  That’s certainly not what Joan and Lloyd believe.

We were trained to rapidly go from subject to subject.  Yet, our company board rooms run marathon meetings expecting the employees to learn.  Our bosses are incensed when we look at our phones.  They don’t realize that the blank stares they see are really eyes searching for thunder and lightning.  When we get up to go to the bathroom for the third time, we are really looking for Snuffleupagus.  If they really paid careful attention, they would realize that we preffered the safety of Bert, secretly wanted to be Ernie and spent most of the time being Oscar the grouch.  If they thought for a moment, they would teach many things for shorter periods of time and not a few things for long periods.  If they were really thinking, all they would have to do to get our attention is remember how to get to Sesame Street.

Slightly different!

doc mu


 

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Better than Gretzky?!

These are the dog days of winter.  This is the time of year that many of us yearn for the hot humid summer days we complained about.  There is no question that this winter has been brutal.  It has been so cold that this winter even got its own name, Polar Vortex.  To top it off, “Frozen” received the Oscar for best animated picture.  Now that’s cold.  In the face of global warming, the polar vortex helped to keep the winter in Winter Olympics.

After two weeks of honoring Jack Frost in Sochi, I’ve come to the obvious conclusion.  Canadians are pretty good at Hockey.  The Canadians won gold in men’s and women’s ice hockey.  Although it should be celebrated, it is not all that surprising.  Most of the best hockey players in the world come from Canada.  Not only do most of the best players come from Canada, the best player in history came from Canada.

image If you are a hockey fan, there is general consensus that the greatest player in history was Wayne Gretzy.  His unique combination of speed, skill and awareness made is clear that he was the best.  Basketball may have their debates.  Is it Jordan, Kobe or Lebron?  But in hockey, it’s clear as, well… ice.  Wayne Gretzy scored 894 goals and had a whopping 1963 assists.  That’s a total of 2857 points.  He just had a knack for scoring and creating scoring opportunities for teammates.  The data is daunting.  His statistical dominance is overwhelming.  Or is it?

In hockey and basketball they track a statistic called plus-minus.  +/- for short.  This is a measure of how your team does when you are on the ice or court.  It is calculated by adding goals scored and subtracting goals scored against the team.  Weaker players tend to have negative numbers and you would assume that great players have higher positive numbers.  It is true that Wayne Gretzky had a very high +\- number.  It was 518!  That number seems to be appropriate for a guy that had such an impact on his team’s offense.

imageHowever, if we use this number to measure greatness, Gretzy is not necessarily a standout.  If we use +/-, the best player in history would be Larry Robinson.  Who?  Larry Robinson, aka Big Bird, was 6′ 4″ and 225 pounds.  He was a hall of fame defenseman.  He won numerous Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.  Compared to Gretzy, he had over 600 less goals and over 1200 less assists.  How could this guy be considered better than Gretzky?  It’s simple.  When Larry Robinson was on the ice, it was more likely that his team would score and less like that his opponent would score.  Therefore, Gretzky may be the greatest player in history, but Robinson may be the greatest teammate in history.

Our world is obsessed with individual success.  We applaud those individuals who are the best in their craft.  We want the best doctor. We want the best engineer.  We want the best lawyer.  How often do we want the best teammate.  Companies take a group of talented people, lock them in a room and expect great things.  That may not be the best way to do it.  It is more likely for that team to score goals, but it is also more likely for that team to get scored on.  What we should do is compose groups of teammates.  With a team full of Larry Robinsons, it is more likely for the team to score goals and less likely for them to get scored on.  It is intuitive, but it is very hard to do.  After all, Wayne Gretzky is a household name, even outside of Canada.

That’s the beauty of it.  When you have a group of teammates, the team is successful.  Each member of the team may not get their name in lights, may not be considered the greatest in history and may not become a household name.  However, that team will be far more successful than the team full of scorers.  Ultimately, you have two choices.  You can put together a group of goal scorers or put together a group of teammates.  You decide.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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#Old School Role Models

It’s official!  I am getting old.  I consider myself a fairly technologically savvy individual.  I have an iPhone.  I have Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest accounts.  Truthfully, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing on Pinterest.  Most of my conversations occur through texting, although I usually pick up the phone to call after 3 or 4 lines.  I use Windows 8 and I recently purchased an Xbox 1, sorry PlayStation fans.  Though I am making every effort to bolt into the new millennium, something still is holding me back.  Something still feels uncomfortable.  Something just isn’t right.

I want to take risks, because I am told you only live once.  But I hesitate to take risks, because I’m worried I’ll only live once.  I’m just saying!  I’m still trying to find the right time to use “you be like.”   I also have to confess that I’m still trying to find LMAO on a map.  Isn’t it next to Laos?  I’m trying my best to hashtag, #notexactlysurewhattohashtag!  Overall, I am feeling very technologically progressive and aggressive.  But, there is something I’m having a hard time accepting.  At least for me, there is one thing this brave new world is lacking.

I must confess.  I grew up watching way too much television.  I blame TV for my quasi antisocial personality.  Ok I’ll be honest, sometimes I can be a jerk.  Television can be a mind-numbing idiot box.  After a few hours of TV watching, it takes a herculean effort to wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth.  Although TV has cognitively suppressed many young Einsteins, it did help develop kids in other ways.  Many of my TV marathons included multiple episodes of Good Times, The Jefferson’s and The Cosby Show.  What I realize now that I didn’t realize then is how these shows helped to shape my life.  Of course, they were ridiculed for being too unrealistic and idealistic.  Whatever they were, they provided me with one thing.  They provided me with role models.

James Evans, the father fiRole Modelsgure from Good Times, was a proud man.  At times, he worked two jobs to keep his family of five fed.  He didn’t have a career, he worked whatever job he could.  From dishwasher to construction, he would do whatever it took.  He wouldn’t dare take a handout and would suffer almost any injustice to work for a hard earned wage.  George Jefferson, patriarch from the Jefferson’s, was moving on up.  He worked day and night to keep his dry cleaning stores afloat.  Gregarious and at times domineering, he worked tirelessly to build his small empire.  Dr. Huxtable, the light hearted dad from The Cosby Show, was a man for all seasons.  He worked day and night delivering babies and raising his family.  All his kids went to college, even Theo.  He had arrived, but you couldn’t always tell that from the way he raised his kids.

James Evans, George Jefferson and Dr. Huxtable shaped my life.  Dishwasher to drycleaner to doctor, they all shared the same traits.  They worked hard to support their families, emotionally and financially.  They were always trying to advance their families place in the world.  They taught me the meaning of work ethic, honor and persistence.  They never took handouts.  They made their way in the world, so that their children could find their way in the world.

What about today?  The new iPhone has more features than the previous version.  The new Xbox has the best graphics I’ve ever seen.  Facebook has allowed this blog to connect to the world.  But, our role models haven’t advanced very much at all.  I know what you’re thinking.  SpongeBob hasn’t missed a day of work in the history of Bikini Bottom.  Other than that juvenile example, what exactly are we teaching our kids about work ethic?  What are we teaching our kids about persistence?  What are we teaching our kids about honor?  Does American Idol teach the lessons that our kids need to learn?  Do you think X factor carries the message about working two full time jobs you hate, just to make ends meet?  Could it be the Amazing Race will teach our young men and women how to be responsible adults?  I am not so sure.

This is whhUXTABLEat makes me feel old.  This is what makes me feel awkward.  This is why it’s tough for me to confidently bolt into the new millennium.  Our stories of honor and valor are not being told.  It isn’t cool anymore to produce shows that highlight people who work hard, do what’s right and try to be the best they can be.  There has to be a scandal.  There has to be a sin.  There has to be a dark side.  It is for this reason that I am so reluctant to move forward.  It isn’t because I don’t know how to use Pinterest.  It isn’t because I’d rather talk than text.  It isn’t because I don’t know when to hashtag.  It’s because we no longer celebrate characters like James Evans, George Jefferson and Dr. Huxtable!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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The Steve Jobs Syndrome

It’s almost time.  Just aoverworked few more clicks on that dusty keyboard.  It’s missing an E.  But your typing is superb, you don’t even notice.  You’re getting to that point in the day where coffee is more valuable than air.  There is so much to do and so little time to do it.  Your team is depending on you.  Your boss is counting on you.  Your company is relying on you.  That corporate ladder is yours for the climbing.  So you stay, again.  There will be other dance recitals, baseball games and parent teacher conferences.  There will be other firsts.  You just don’t have the time to make this one, or the last one, or the one before that.  Who are you kidding?  You won’t make the next one either.  The work you do is too important!  Is “ASAP” really a word?

When you see him, your son looks taller and your daughter has a new boyfriend.  Is that a new couch?  You are indispensable.  Or so you think.  You have been brainwashed to believe that your success can only be delivered by those who critique your reports.  You are convinced that your worth is measured by those who approve your timecard.  You believe that who you are is defined by your manager and your manager’s manager.  You introduce yourself as director or vice president.  The letters of your degree become part of your signature.  Essentially, you are defined by what you do.  But, what happens when you can’t do it?

On October 5th 2011, Steve jobs died from complications of pancreatic cancer.  Steve jobs was the founder and CEO of arguably the greatest tech company in history.  You would assume that after his untimely death, the company would have crumbled to the ground.  However, the opposite is true.  The two highest net income quarters in the history of Apple occurred after Steve Job’s unfortunate death.  There is no question that Steve Jobs had an unmistakable impact on the company he built.  That said, the company survived without him.  He is gone and the company is stronger than ever.  This is the Steve Jobs Syndrome.

What about you?  What will happen to your company if you leave?  What would happen if that report, assignment or project did not emergently get completed?  The coldhearted but true answer would be: absolutely nothing.  As individually important as you are, you may be replaced.  After the speeches and toasts, you can be replaced.  Although no one else can do the job quite as well as you can, you will be replaced.  If you are lucky enough, your company’s two greatest quarters will be after you’re gone.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  There are those who will miss you.  There are those whose lives are changed forever by your presence or the lack of it.  Your company may not miss you.  Your manager may not miss you.  Your CEO may not miss you.  Do you know who will miss you?  Your family.  Your son wants you to measure his height.  He’s going to be taller than you.  Your daughter wants you to approve her new suitor.  She pretends to avoid your questions.  You should be there to choose that new couch.  The old one was so comfortable.  You will be missed, by your family.  The net happiness of your family will plummet if you were gone.

I’m not saying that you should quit your job.  I’m not saying you should ignore your responsibility.  After all, we all want to be successful.  I’m just saying, don’t lose who you are along the way.  Don’t forget where your true value is assessed.  Don’t forget who will miss you when you’re gone.  It’s almost 5 o’clock.  Put down that computer.  Pour out that coffee.  Get in the car.  Hug your family and don’t let them go.  The work will be waiting for you when you get back.

Slightly different,

doc mu.

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“FREE THROWS”

The building had anfree throws oddly appealing smell of stale sweat soaked maple.  It was the kind of smell that you get used to, the kind of smell that athletes can’t get enough of.  The old gym existed somewhere between comfortable and worn out, like a marriage on the rocks.  The referee handed him the ball and flashed two freakishly long fingers in the air.  He reluctantly grabbed it and looked at the score, tied at 66.  He held the ball as though he had never held one before.  He looked down at his $178 shoes.  He had three pairs.  His uniform was two sizes too big and his hair was more manicured than expected, for the early morning game.  There is nothing free about free throws.  Why do they call them that?  What a cruel, inappropriate and ironic name.

He wasn’t the most athletic looking kid in the world.  His waist was entirely too high.  Either his legs were too long or his shorts were too short.  Even though he had perfect vision, he squinted towards the rim.  He didn’t look nervous, just pensive.  He looked like he was contemplating jumping into a cold swimming pool.  He was the son, grandson and nephew of the greatest athlete in history.  Isn’t that true for all of us?  He wondered when his athletic genes would surface.  His dad wondered if his athletic genes would surface.  His mom worried that his athletic genes could surface.  Piano lessons had to be rescheduled again.

When his legs worked, which wasn’t often, he actually ran pretty fast.  Not fast like a gazelle bounding through the Serengeti, fast like Bambi on ice.  To put it in a word, he was awkward.  Not just in basketball, he was awkward in everything.  Dad’s superman heat ray vision burned into his chest.  He dare not look at him.  Mom was sitting at the opposite end of the gym, but that’s a longer story.  She was looking down at her phone.  When wasn’t she looking down at her phone?  Every sound he heard had a muffled underwater tone.  He froze and looked at the logo on the ball, “Wilson”.  “Son, are you all right?”  The referee interrupted his new preoccupation.

Dad was screaming “focus!”  Mom heard and decided to look up.  A few more dribbles and he was ready.  He bent his knees, put the ball to his forehead and uncomfortably shot.  The glass backboard almost shattered!  Dad sighed, stomped his feet and rubbed his temples.  Mom kept texting.  It wasn’t clear if she looked long enough to be embarrassed.  The referee gave him a comforting and condescending smile.  One shot left.  One shot to win it all.  One shot that would change everything.  Again, the referee handed him the ball.  It felt heavier this time and a little slippery.  He spun the ball in his hands.  He couldn’t remember who told him to focus on the seams.  He decided to focus on the seams.

“Shoot it higher!”  Dad screamed from the bleachers.  “Use more spin!”  His teammate was trying to be helpful.  “Shoot it lower!”  The coach said, in direct opposition to his father.  Confused and determined, he quickly shot again.  This one looked decidedly better.  His eyes widened, as it approached the rim.  Mom conveniently put her phone down to watch.  Dad stood perfectly erect, with one fist clenched.  Confidently, the coach started clapping.  The ref bit the tip of his whistle, almost breaking it.  The box score would record just one point, but it would be the greatest single point of his young life.  “If it would just go in,” he thought.

It hit the rim and careened of the glass blackboard.  He missed horribly.  His teammate corralled the rebound and quickly shot it.  “Swish!”  The buzzer sounded and the crowd roared!  It was over!  He smiled, looked down and slithered over to the rambunctious throng.  All was forgiven.  As he shook the opposition team’s hands, he couldn’t help but notice their red and tearful faces.  They were disappointed, angry and ashamed.  With that, it was over.  Coach patted him on the head and his father quickly escorted him off the court.  The car ride home was painfully quiet.  He didn’t know if the shot was too high or too low.  He didn’t know if there was enough spin on it.  He didn’t know if his knees were bent enough.  All he knew was that football tryouts were on Thursday.

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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Ode to Firefighter Chris Nelson

The alarm goes off for the third time and you cringe.  Why the hell did you set your alarm ringtone to fire engine?  This is the perfect day to burn some vacation pay.  You slowly fall back asleep.  You are startled by your own snoring and realize you haven’t been to work in a week.  It feels like you worked yesterday.  Even if you muster the strength to take that first wakeful, you know the day won’t be any different than the last.  Like all the other unavoidable days, you will force yourself to work and dodge the clock for the entire shift.  Seriously, how many times can you possibly rearrange your desk?  “Can’t that clock go any faster?”  The depression sets in when you realize that when this day ends, another is sure to follow.  Another mundane, unfulfilling, uninspiring, regular day.

On February 8th, 2014, firefight5303db123d7a6_preview-300er Chris Nelson started one of his regular days.  He woke up, packed his gear and went to a routine training exercise.  Unfortunately, this day was far from regular.  As he was climbing a ladder, Chris suddenly let go and fell on his back.  When he hit the ground, he wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.  His fellow firefighters ran to his aid and performed lifesaving treatment.  He was transported to the trauma center.  After he was stabilized, doctors realized that his back and neck were broken.  He also had a spinal cord injury.  Today, Chris is fighting for his life.  His wife is by his side.  His son is standing strong.  His daughter is missing her daddy.

Chris Nelson is so strong.  His spirit will overwhelm his injuries.  His family’s resolve will carry him through.  Chris, his family and friends are fighting for his life.  He would give anything for a regular day.  He would give anything to turn that alarm off for that third time.  He would give anything to dodge that clock for the entire shift.  He would give anything for that mundane, unfulfilling, uninspiring, regular day.  He and his family are wishing for those days that we take for granted.

Don’t you dare take those regular days for granted.  Don’t you dare wake up and complain, because your alarm went off too early.  Don’t ever complain about the days you have to force yourself to go to work.  Don’t ever complain about those mundane, unfulfilling, uninspiring, regular days.  Regular days are something special.  They should be revered.  They should be celebrated.  They should be honored.  Chris Nelson is in the midst of the fight of his life.  It is up to us to save some of those regular days for him.

Chris, we are praying for you and your family.  Get well soon!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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How Our Leaders Should Lead

In the 2007 movie 300, King Leonidas leads his troops into a suicide mission against King Xerxes’ Persian army.  Xerxes was thought to be a demigod and was known to experiment with black magic.  If that weren’t enough, Xerxes army was massive.  All historical accounts of the Battle oking-leonidasf Thermopylae estimate King Xerxes army at about 300,000.  King Leonidas led an army of 300 elite Spartans.  Yes, that’s right.  300 versus 300,000!  The conflict took place in 480 BC and the 2007 movie was a brilliant rendition of this epic battle.

The movie glamorized the fighting skills of the elite Spartans.  It highlighted the might of the Persian Army.  It underscored another David and Goliath classic.  But that isn’t what intrigued me.  What intrigued me was the leadership of King Leonidas.  He didn’t lead from the Senate.  He didn’t lead from a tent behind the front lines.  He was the first to battle.  He was at the front line.  He led, by example.

What kind of world would we live in, if our leaders led like Leonidas.  When we are struggling financially, they would be the first to take pay cuts.  Like us, they wouldn’t take vacation.  They would retire on the same measly social security that we all will.  They would lead on the front lines and not hide in their tents in Washington.  If our leaders led by example, they wouldn’t ask us to do what they won’t do.  They would only ask us to do what they would be willing to do themselves.  They would lead by example.

Leadership isn’t about how much a leader is liked.  It isn’t about what the leader believes.  It isn’t about what the leader says.  Leadership is about what a leader does.  When the team goes into battle, the leader should have spear in hand and be the first to fight.  At some level or other, we are all leaders.  We all have a few or many who follow our lead.  Before you close your office door or retreat to your tent behind the front lines, remember Leonidas.  Grab your spear, rally your troops and lead by example!

Slightly different,

doc mu


 

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California Water Crisis?!

Legoland-California-water-park_54054924 On January 17, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a water emergency.  Specifically he said.  “I’m declaring a drought emergency in the state of California because we’re facing perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen since records began being kept about a hundred years ago.”  In response to this crisis, he is urging that all of his citizens conserve water.  He is asking each and every citizen to do their part and help in this toughest of times.

Wait a second!  This is a water-crisis-in-sundarban-india--thumb13850969crisis.  The last I checked, the fountains were still spouting in Disney Land and the Lego Land was still open for business.  Maybe Mr. Brown needs to reconsider what a crisis is.  No wonder the rest of the world sees us as spoiled brats.  There are people in the world without running water and we are in a crisis?  We are so use to getting what we want, we haven’t realistically thought about what we need.

Most of us live our lives in this way.  The things we tend to complain about are so insignificant.  We are upset when our team loses or when we can’t find the right color shoes.  Our biggest crisis is choosing between an Android or Apple mobile phone.  How do we expect to pursue success, with the unrivaled rigor that is required for excellence?  When did we become so superficial, weak and inconsiderate?  Most of the world would die for our problems.  Most of us would die, if we had theirs.

This attitude limits our potential greatness.  Our society has become lazy and weak.  We wake up each morning with expectations rather than aspirations.  We spend far too much time complaining about what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for what we have.  We don’t realize that our crises aren’t really crises at all.

Why is this important?  It is important because sailors aren’t made on smooth seas.  We can’t be the best if we always have it easy.  Life is hard and success is even harder.  If you really want to succeed, you should expect it to be difficult.  If the seas are always smooth, you aren’t going to be a very good sailor.

Slightly different,

doc mu.

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What’s Your Why?

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When you woke up this morning, what made you get up, get ready and go to work.  What made you stay up all night to make that project deadline and you don’t even like coffee.  You hate flying, but you faithfully get on that plane, trusting the pilot with your life.  Why did you push your child out of a moving minivan to make sure you arrived at work on time.  What made you miss dinner again?  It was the third time this week.  What made you take that promotion for more work and less money?  Why do you do what you do?  What’s your why?

In our maniacal pursuit of success, we rarely think about why we do what we do.  How often do we think about what pushes us past our previously perceived limits?  It is important for us to focus on what we do, but it may be even more important to focus on why we do it?  Our greatest performances will only occur when we know why we are doing what we do.

That arduous daily grind may not be as difficult, if we have identified what our why is.  Your motivation to succeed should be your own.  It can not be determined by anyone else.  Determining “why” is the most important part of your success pursuit.

What’s your WHY?!

Slightly different,

doc mu

 

 

 

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The Super Bowl Winner Is…. No one?

no score2Many youth sports programs are adopting a new and innovative way to encourage participation. They believe that our society is too focused on winning and losing. Instead, our youth sports should foster the love of the game. Experienced and developing players can play side by side, without the burden of a final score. The thought is this. Without winners and losers, the players and coaches can focus on honing the skills of the game.

What an innovation! Coaches are no longer yelling at kids, no longer yelling at the refs and no longer yelling at each other. Presumably the kids are happy, because they can frolic up and down the field without worrying about being in the right place or doing the right thing. Parents proudly place permanent placards on their Prius’, to promote their prodigious prodigies. These programs are great, because they make winners of anybody willing to fork over the $150 to join the league.

I get it. We wantwinners losers to protect our children from the harm of losing. We want to insulate them from the insult of not being good enough. We want them to love the game for the game itself. Essentially, we want to make all of them equal and shield them from the inequality that inevitably will find them. Sports should not have winners or losers. No one should win the Super Bowl!

Before we get rid of all the score boards, fire all the referees and decommission tryouts, we ought to think about the consequences of such actions. Not having winners and losers actually limits the growth of our children. Losing is not a character judgment, it is a reality. At some point in our lives, we will lose. Losing in little league starts the process of training our youth to manage failure. It is a part of the success pursuit process. It redirects the effort and adjusts the strategy. In that way, losing is not the opposite of winning. It is part of the process of winning. Likewise, winning reinforces behaviors that need to be repeated. Provided we are not teaching our kids to cheat, winning is typically a function of how hard we are willing to work.

Winning and losing should not define our character. They simply serve as benchmarks. They show us what we should and shouldn’t do. They create opportunities for improvement and guide our success pursuit. We should manage our wins and losses, not avoid them. We should strive to win the Super Bowl, because it affirms our hard work. Losing simply tells us where we can improve, where we can get better and what we have left to do. We sign our children up in these leagues, mostly because we want them to win. But maybe for them to improve, we have to allow them to lose.

Slightly different,

doc mu

 

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We are who we are because of who they were

grands5I write this blog with a heavy heart.  Recently, my paternal grandfather died.  I am comforted by the fact that he did not suffer and he was surrounded by his children.  Michael Fraser Tomlinson was my father’s father.  He was known as “Tailor”” Mike, because of his mastery of the trade.  I can sense in me his entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that encouraged him to leave his Jamaican homeland to pursue success in America.  He was my last surviving grandparent.  His passing made me think of all my grandparents and their impact on my life.

It is clear that whgrands3o I am is a product of who came before me.  All that I am is because of them.  My every trait, skill, thought and behavior comes from my lineage.  My paternal grandmother has given me the strength and fortitude to persevere.  Being blind for most of her life never stopped her.  She was an eternal optimist and always saw the half full glass.  She always made me feel like I could accomplish anything.  My maternal grandmother’s powerful connection to God and love of the piano changed the way I saw the world.  I remember shadow boxing the devil for her.  I can still hear her playing hymns on our piano.

Any success I claim cannot be claimed without acknowledging them.  Any win I have comes as a result of what they have handed down to me.  Whatever I achieve is due to the foundation they have laid.  I am who I am because of them.  This I cannot forget.

As human beings we have a tendency to assume that we are all self-made.  We assume that all we are is because of our own hard work.  We are who we are partly from our work ethic, but we cannot ignore the contributions of our parents and their parents.  What they did, gives us the opportunity to do what we do.  Before we hang that degree, accept that award or deposit that paycheck, we should take a moment to thank those who have given us the opportunity to succeed.  We are who we are because of who they were.

Rest in Peace Tailor Mike, Adrianna and Zenna.  Thank you for all you have done for me.  I will continue building on the foundation you have laid.

Sadly,

doc mu


 

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The New Year’s Resolution Revolution!

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!  Happy New Year!!!  Alright, you’ve made it.  If you aren’t too nauseated from “enjoying” yourself last night, you have officially made it to that frightful day.  This is the day that you have to deliver on all those crazy promises you made.  Thank goodness you didn’t tell anybody else about them.  Don’t worry!  I won’t tell anybody that you have no intention of fulfilling those resolutions.    You will, like last year, make an honorable effort.  It’s ok.  I understand.  You were busy.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  The best laid plans…

Don’t feel too guilty.  It’s not just you.  We all have this problem.  Our society has brainwashed us.  We are expected to monumental change in one day.  On December 31 we vow to change all that we are forever more.  Habits that have tethered us for years are expected to disappear in one day.  Sounds great, but it isn’t very realistic.  We blindly follow the status quo.  Because it takes 3 minutes to get dinner, we feel all of our personal ails can be cured instantly.  Isn’t there a resolution fulfillment drive through?

revolutionUnfortunately, the way we get our coffee, our food and our messages isn’t the way we change.  Change is slow.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  Unfortunately, it is also hard.  What we need is a New Year’s Resolution Revolution.  We need to revolt against the practice of changing who we are in one monumental day.  We need to revolt against a process that frankly isn’t working out very well.  Instead of thinking about what we should do differently for one day, we should think about what we should do differently every day.  Instead of making New Year’s resolution on one day, we should make them every day.

Our resolve to improve should be consistent, persistent and pervasive.  Our desire to get better should consume us.  Think of what we could accomplish if we committed to get better every day of every year.  The changes that we had expected to occur in an instant would happen over time.  Change in this way is more likely to stick.  It is more likely to last longer than a week.  The type of change that happens as a result of every day effort is lasting.  That type of fundamental change won’t be undone in a week.

This year, start you resolution revolution.  Start your fundamental change.  Start your process of improvement every day of every year.  Don’t limit your opportunities to improve to just one day.  Starting today, revolt!

doc mu


 

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Please Quit Making Resolutions

 

It is a common and ritualistic practice to spend the end of year thoughtfully considering what you will change in the New Year.  In our post-turkey euphoria, we make the decision to conquer the world.  In that solitary New Year, we plan to double all of our lifetime accomplishments.  There are so many things that we plan to achieve in the New Year, even though we didn’t achieve them this year.  Our most recent behavior is even more incredulous.  During the past month, we have eaten our way from a medium to a large.  We have supplanted eleven months of fiscal responsibility with one month of wanton and reckless expenditures.  It wasn’t your fault.  You were convinced that you deserved a reward for a long, arduous year.  But now you are ready. You are ready to turn that proverbial switch and instantaneously change your ways.  Unrealistic!

It is the right thing to do.  Reassessing where you are and where you want to go at the end of the year makes sense.  There is something about the end of the year that reinvigorates commitment.  There is something fresh about a new year that heightens your previously feeble motivation.  I’m not trying to discourage that energy.  I’m just trying to encourage using it in a slightly different way.  When we make “resolutions”, we hope to resolve an issue.  We want to change the way we do business.  We make cliché commitments.  “I am going to lose weight.”  “I am going to spend more time with family.”  “I am going to make more money.”

At first, these seem reasonable and attainable.  Unfortunately, they are fool’s gold.  You’ll be lucky to maintain them through February.  The trouble is that resolutions are hollow.  They are qualitative.  They have no substance.  They can’t be measured.  You can make all the resolutions you want, but you will find yourself making the same resolutions year after year after year.  Instead of resolving a problem, you need to make goals.

What’s the difference?  Goals are different from resolutions, because they are quantitative.  They are tangible.  They can be measured.  Goals hold you accountable.  Goals don’t resolve problems, they set expectations.  They announce your intent to the world.  Instead of a resolution to losing weight, make the goal to lose 15 pounds.  Instead of a resolution to spend more time with family, make the goal to spend one weekend a month with the family.  Instead of a resolution to make more money, make the goal to earn $10,000 more next year in overtime.  The other difference between resolutions and goals is time.  Resolutions are nebulous and behavior based.  Goals are specific and result based.  Not only are they measureable, they are time sensitive.  The weight loss resolution becomes a goal to lose 15 pounds in 6 months.

Looking at your new year in this way will allow you to focus.  It will make your plan of attack that much more distinct.  Your successes will be clearer and your failures will be more obvious.  You can replace that arbitrary year end process of evaluating your resolutions, with a check list of the goals you have achieved.  You can change your focus from what you didn’t do, to what you have accomplished.  Instead of guilt, you have results.  Instead of problems, you have solutions.

The New Year is almost here.  Don’t waste it making silly indistinct, noncommittal resolutions.  Think about where you want to be and make the goals necessary to get there.  This will be a great year.  You are poised for success.  Don’t hesitate to tell the world what you want and what you will do to get there.  Starting today, your goal is go out there and get it!

doc mu


 

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Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays

It’s likely that you have spent the last several days hustling to complete that infamous Christmas list.  You have convinced yourself that capitalizing on every 10% sale is what Christmas is all about.  Insomniac children everywhere force themselves to sleep, as they painfully await the reward for their marginal behavior.  You send gifts to people you haven’t talked to in years.  You expect gifts from people you haven’t seen in years.  You have a vague idea of what you previously believed about this time of year, but can’t help yourself from saying “holiday tree” and “happy holidays”.

You think briefly about making a difference and maybe going to a shelter or church, but you spent far too long in Walmart to get there in time.  You want to spend time with your family, but couldn’t resist the holiday triple overtime pay.  You and your spouse argue about what isn’t perfect about the season, your lives and your relationship.  We pack the malls, as the homeless pack the emergency departments.  We cook all day, eat until we wheeze and then throw most of the food out.  After taking breaks to allow the food to settle, we power through the gratifying 14,000 calories.  We lay on the couch skimming the Christmas specials, not realizing that we consumed enough food to feed three starving children for a week.  We quickly flipped by that channel.

These are our happy holidays.  These are the days that we look forward to every year.  These are the days that we are more comfortable saying “Black Friday” than “Merry Christmas.”  What we have done to Christmas is a microcosm of what is happening to our society.  Not only have we changed what we do, we have changed why we do it.  As hard as we work, we tend to do what we do for mostly selfish reasons.  We are not selfish because we are evil.  We are selfish, because we have simply forgotten our nobility.

Irrespective of our religion or culture, Christmas offers us a reminder of what should be important.  It offers us a reminder of the story and its significance.  Christmas shouldn’t be about discount prices, black Friday and what you get.  Christmas should be about sacrifice, compassion and what you give.  The word holiday implies an entirely different thing.  Holiday implies rest, relaxation and respite.  It makes sense for us to be selfish on holidays.  After all, the word holiday is generic.  It doesn’t conjure up the feelings that this time of year should be about.

And what the heck does this have to do with success?  As our society becomes more generic and more politically correct, we may lose our nobility.  Whatever we do, we should do it for reasons beyond our own self-interest.  We should do what we do for more than what the return is.  We shouldn’t be good because someone is keeping a list.  We should be good, because it is the right thing to do.  We should do what we do for a cause greater than ourselves.  We shouldn’t let our society dictate our motives and tell us what is important to us.  We should do what we do, because it will benefit more than just us, because it is noble and because it is right.

Merry Christmas!

doc mu


 

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Our Preoccupation with Past Performance

Over the last 50 years, our world has moved at light speed.  Almost every aspect of our society has improved.  Our communication is faster and instantaneous.  Our data is richer and more robust.  Our systems are interactive and more complex.  Innovation, education and entrepreneurship have advanced our understanding of the world around us.  We can instant message people on the other side of the globe.  We have cars that don’t even use gas.  We can visit the world without leaving our desks.  Our understanding of just about everything has improved, except our knowledge about success.  Our intelligence, our technological advances, our innovations fall short in our attempts to predict success.

Without even knowing it, we all fall into the same trap.  We use past performance to predict future success.  We focus on what people have done, instead of what they will do.  We analyze where people have gone, instead of where they are going.  We judge people based on who they are, rather than what they will be.  We have determined our children’s little league trajectory, by their dominant performance in T-ball.  We sort our young students and athletes, before they have reached puberty.  We think we know who will win, because we know who won.  Those who lose early wallow in the wasteland of underachievement.

It’s time to advance our understanding of success.  It’s time for us to view success slightly differently.  It’s time to spend a little more time focusing on what we can become.  It’s time to stop spending millions on draft picks for what they have done, without knowing what they can do.  By selecting only those who have had early wins, we decrease the total number of successful people.  What about those who have early failures?  Should we write them off?  Should we ignore them?  They don’t usually get into the advance classes.  They are not usually selected for the all-star teams. They are ignored and steered in other directions.  We tell them they aren’t good enough.  We think they aren’t smart enough.  We assume they aren’t athletic enough.

This is why the traditional model of success is flawed.  It limits success to those who have succeeded.  It is clear that sometimes success occurs in a slightly different way.  Those early failures may be the motivation for people to exceed there draft pick.  Maybe, those first loses are what motivate people to push past their pedigree.  Maybe just maybe, what you’ve done isn’t exactly what you’ll do.  Where you’re from isn’t necessarily related to where you’re going.  Your future success isn’t predicated on whether you have succeeded.  Your future success is predicated on what you decide to do from this point forward.  You draft pick is a distraction.  Your pedigree is some else’s problem.  Your success is within your control.  You decide!

doc mu


 

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Success is possible in spite of your circumstances!

She walked across the stage with a subtle limp.  As she walked up and cradled her diploma, she looked toward the crowd for all those who had come to cheer her on.  Her daughter looked at her with the comforting adoration that only a child can have for a parent.  Her mom looked at her with the proud eyes that only a parent can have for their child.  It isn’t always clear why happy moments like these force everybody to tears.  These tears of joy acknowledge all the years of hard work and suffering.

For the family of Carylann Hernandez, the tears were flowing for a few other reasons.  In August of 1993, Carylann noticed a painful bump on her leg.  She had fallen from a tree a few months earlier and it appeared to be a pesky fracture that wouldn’t heal.  Xrays were inconclusive, but a CT scan showed what the family had secretly feared.  It was cancer.  What Carylann remembers most is the tears.  She couldn’t comprehend exactly what was happening.  She cried, because her family was crying.  Carylann didn’t get cake on her 10th birthday.  Her 10th birthday present was chemotherapy.  Three months of chemotherapy didn’t improve things.  Doctors then explained that the only way to save her life was to amputate the leg.  Carylann’s 5th grade challenge wasn’t algebra.  Her greatest challenge that year was healing and learning to walk again.  She would get chemo.  Go home.  Go back to the hospital with fever.  Get blood transfusions and then get more chemo.  This was her routine for an entire year.

She spent most of her 6th grade avoiding everybody, because her hair hadn’t fully grown back and she was tired of people staring at her prosthetic leg.  As the year progressed she was far more comfortable with her friends and nurses from the hospital, than the curious kids at her school.  For that year, the nurses became her best friends.  In the hospital, the nurses never looked at her funny.  They never questioned her.  They smiled with her.  They prayed with her.  They comforted her.  They made her laugh.  They held her hand.  Most of all, they inspired her.

When she walked up to the stage and received her nursing degree, she knew that she wanted to be a pediatric oncology nurse.  She wanted to be the one smiling, praying and comforting.  She wanted to be the one making kids laugh and holding their hands.  She wanted to be the nurse that inspired other 10 year olds to become future nurses.  She wanted other children to feel the love that she received from the nurses that cared for her.

The tears that fell on that graduation day were more than tears of pride.  Those tears were the kind of tears that a mother sheds, when she wishes she could take the disease from her child.  Those tears were the kind of tears that fall, when you wish you could take your child’s pain and make it your own.  Those tears were the tears that fall, as you remember the chemotherapy, the amputation and the moment you found the painful bump on your child’s leg.  Those tears were the tears that fall, when you watch your child learn to walk for the second time.  Those tears are the tears of hurt, sadness, anger, happiness, despair, pain and relief all rolled into one.

Carylann Hernandez could have felt sorry for herself.  She could have decided to stay at home and cry herself to sleep at night.  She could have decided that the world owed her, after putting her through that ordeal.  She could have sat at home and hoped that one day the nightmare would end.  But, that’s not what she did.  She woke up every day, put on her prosthetic leg and went to class.  She woke everyday with the hope of caring for others.  She woke up every day without any doubt in her mind that she would accomplish her goal.  She woke up every day and did what many people with two legs couldn’t.

When I first met Carylann Hernandez I asked her.  “Why are you limping?  What did you do to your leg?”  She looked at me with a smile and simply said.  “You don’t know.  I don’t have one.”  She walked away as if nothing had happened.  It was clear then that Carylann knew her disability wasn’t what made her different.  She knew that it was her ability that made her different.  What we can learn from Carylann is that success is more likely, if we simply focus on our ability instead of our disabilities.  Success happens when we concentrate on what we can do, instead of sulking about what we can’t.  Success is possible because of your circumstances, but it is also possible in spite of them.

Congratulations Carylann!!!

doc mu


 

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How do we really define winners and losers?

On February 3, 2013, the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl.  Whether you are a football fan or not, Super Bowl Sunday dominates our collective consciousness for at least one day.  Unlike other professional sports that have a championship series, several games played together to crown a winner.  The Super Bowl is a single game championship.  One single game determines the fate of players, cities, coaches and careers.  Besides going to Disneyland, the Super Bowl champions are lauded with attention, endorsements and mega contracts.  Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Raven’s Super Bowl winning quarterback, signed a 121 million dollar contract.  The Super Bowl and its winner attract so much attention that companies pay millions for commercials during the game.  Football fans can rattle off the past fifteen years of Super Bowl champions.  A few particularly rabid fans can even recall the most valuable players in those games.  Even the commercials garner critical acclaim.

Any ambitious study of success is likely to study coaches, players and franchises of the winning teams.  Why not?  If you want to win, it makes sense to study those who won.  There is no question that studying winners helps us understand winning, but the lesson is incomplete without studying the losers.  The Super Bowl losers and considered just that, losers.  However, there might be a little more to it.  As the losers of a single Super Bowl Championship game, the Buffalo Bills lost to the New York Giants 1991.  That year, they lost by a heart breaking single point.  A missed field goal was the only difference between them and the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.  How many success books use the 1991 Buffalo Bills as a measure of greatness?  They weren’t done there.  In 1992, they lost to the Washington Redskins.  Although they bounced back from that loss, they were dominated by the Dallas Cowboys in consecutive Super Bowls.

The Buffalo Bills lost four Super Bowls in a row.  Only one contest was close.  Like most of you reading this article, I considered them losers too.  That is, until I thought about it a little more.  If you look at the regular season record for the Buffalo Bills, you get the picture of an entirely different team.  In 1990, they were 13-3.  In 1991, they were 13-3.  In 1992, they were 11-5, In 1993, they were 12-4.  These are not the records of losers.  In the playoffs, they were 9-4.  That gives them a record of 45 wins and 19 losses for that four year period.  That is a winning percentage of 70%.This team sent several of its players to the hall of fame.  James Lofton, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly all achieved football hall of fame greatness.  Their coach, Marv Levy also was inducted into the football hall of fame.  During the stretch from 1990-1993 they could be considered the most dominant team in football.

There is no question that the Buffalo Bills had difficulty with winning the Super Bowl.  They obviously could improve their ability to win in that singular defining success moment.  If our analysis stops there, our understanding of success pursuit will be incomplete.  If we only focus on those success moments, we will miss the opportunity to learn.  If we only look at the winning moments, we will misinterpret the secrets of success.  If we discard the entire body of work because of the last chapter, we will miss the greatness of the entire manuscript.  We are so willing to coronate the winners.  The New York Giants, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys are cemented for eternity as the real winners from those years.  I beg to differ.  I believe the real winners were the Buffalo Bills.

It is a feat to have a great season, but it is much harder to rebound from a devastating loss to win again.  No team in NFL history has played in four consecutive Super Bowls and it may never happen ever again.  The greatness of these “losers” lies in their ability to achieve what no other team has ever achieved.  They were able to fall three different times and rise up again to succeed.  For most of us, our success will not come in one great unforgettable season.  If we are waiting for that magical season, we will limit our success.  If we measure our success by that singular success moment, we will miss out on our greatest accomplishments.  If we only value the last chapter, we will ignore the rest of our success manuscript.  Success is not singular.  It does not distill down to one defining moment.  It is a long haul.  It is a painting that is never really complete.  It is getting up and succeeding after falling and failing.  If you have the misfortune of losing your next Super Bowl, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, wipe the tear from your eye and prepare to succeed.

doc mu

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A Tribute to the Mandela Work Week

Let’s face it.  Most of us do not like our jobs.  I’m not saying we hate our jobs, but we spend most of our work week looking forward to vacation.  After all, work is work.  It wasn’t meant to be fun.  We start the week on Monday with a surge of energy, ready to take on the world.  By Wednesday, we are dragging and trying to find the motivation to get over the hump.  Thursday is filled with the anticipation of Friday’s exit.  When that dreaded Friday arrives, it seems to last forever.  Fridays are so painful.  Every tick of the clock is audible.  Every movement is calculated.  It becomes really hard not to daydream about the upcoming weekend.  Although you try to speed up the clock, time slows like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix.  Those Fridays last forever and feel like prison.  You’ve worked hard and deserve a break.  Well, you think that you have worked hard.

Just when you are ready to complain about your Monday through Friday prison sentence, consider this.  What if your Monday to Friday was indeed a prison sentence?  Instead of counting down a 40 hour work week, what if you were counting down a 27 year prison sentence.  Instead of working 5 days a week, what would you do if you had to work 9,855 days in a row?  Instead of the cognitive prison of a job you hate, what would you do if you were in an eight by seven foot cell?  Instead of browsing Facebook to pass the time, you spend your time breaking rocks into gravel.  Instead of a promotion to management, you are promoted from rock breaking to working in the limestone quarry.

On Dec 5th, 2013 Nelson Mandela died.  I thought of all the great work he did to help to abolish apartheid.  I thought of the refined diplomat that was loved around the world.  I thought about the style, grace and poise that allowed him to overcome the years of systemic racism.  He personified greatness.  If it’s hard for me to make it Monday to Friday, how hard was it for him to last 27 years in prison?  What I learned, on this sad day, is that my job isn’t that hard.  My week isn’t that long.  My Friday isn’t that far away.  If Mr. Mandela can smile as he walked out of prison, then I can surely smile as I work through the week.

When you don’t believe you can make it to your Friday, think about Mr. Mandela and his struggle.  Think about his style, grace and poise.  To honor his life, break rocks into gravel on Monday, shovel limestone on Tuesday, participate in a hunger strike on Wednesday, tolerate physical and mental abuse on Thursday and recover from tuberculosis on Friday.  When you are done with your week, spend the weekend abolishing apartheid.  Let’s honor him by struggling through every day.  Let’s honor him by realizing that our jobs really aren’t that hard.  Let’s honor him by being the very best we can be, every day of the week.

God bless you Mr. Mandela.  We love and miss you.  In our hearts you will never be gone.  Mr. Mandela you have worked so hard, you deserve to rest in peace.  Thank you for all you have done for us.

doc mu


 

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Hall Of Fame

On February 23, 2009, another superb high school athlete was inducted to the Florida High School Hall of Fame.  It wasn’t surprising that the inductee excelled in basketball, football and track.  It wasn’t surprising that this 6’1” athlete repeatedly dunked in basketball games.  He even documented a record 11 tackle football game and recorded a 5’10” high jump.  It wasn’t surprising that he was a dominant defensive force on the basketball court and even blocked shots into the stands.  It may not even be that surprising that this inductee was raised in poverty, by a single mom on a tobacco farm.  Even being the 4th of 10 children wasn’t all that outlandish.  Nothing about this three sport hall of fame athlete seemed particularly different until you saw him.

The man that NFL star Dan Dierdorf called “the most amazing athlete I’ve ever seen”, doesn’t necessarily intrigue until he stands in front of you.  What was intriguing?  This Hall of Fame inductee accomplished all he did with only one leg.  Without the use of any prosthetics, Carl Joseph would hop through the offensive line and tackle running backs.  He would hop as high as he could to block his opponent’s shots.  His accomplishments would be impressive if he had two legs, but with one leg these accomplishments were absolutely outstanding.

Carl had a simple explanation for his ability to persevere.  “My mama never felt sorry for me, and I never felt sorry for myself.”   I can’t help but think that Carl was talking directly to us and our daily grind.  We tend to think our road is the most difficult road there is.  We believe we work too long, too hard and too often.  At times we feel sorry for ourselves and wallow in our own self-pity, because we haven’t reached our goals.  Just when you begin to feel sorry for yourself, remember what Carl said.  “I never felt sorry for myself.”  Don’t make excuses or give explanations.  Don’t feel sorry for who you are or what you haven’t done.  If you can’t run or walk, hop though that offensive line and make that tackle.  Never feel sorry for yourself and persevere.  If you have maniacal motivation and fanatical focus you can and will succeed!

doc mu


 

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